Repo Commentary-01/19/21

I apologize, but this will not look like the normal Repo Commentary.  Unfortunately, on Friday, as I was getting ready to send out my new Repo Commentary and was preparing a magazine article, a marketing plan, and two projects for other clients, my clumsy right hand knocked a drink across my laptop keyboard and phone and the entire workstation desk I have created in my studio.  So, I have spent the weekend, recreating files and applications from my iPhone to a borrowed laptop. Unfortunately, I lost the entire Repo Commentary and have to revert back to the 1/07/21 Repo Commentary, and have also had to recreate my work for the 3 clients and magazine. But, no obstacle is too difficult, and I have gerry-rigged a system, until my laptop is repaired. There is a a backlog on Mac part orders I understand of about 2-3 weeks, due to the pandemic.  Maybe this is the perfect time for me to finally ‘streamline’ this Repo Commentary, and make it easier/quicker to read and easier/quicker to write.  Thank you all for understanding.  

It is Day 314 (on 01/19) since the official start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the day that the WHO declared it a ‘pandemic’ (3/11/20). 

I hope that you and your families are staying healthy and safe. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its literal mortal, economic, and mental toll on millions of people around the world. For many, unemployment benefits ended, for others (particularly my friends in gig industries) there were no benefits.  Some of us are still waiting for our second Stimulus check of $600 (including me).

In the last installment of the Repo Commentary (12/03), I wrote about my latest project. It was kind of a work of love, sort of like a 122,000-word book that I always wanted to write, about my 38 years in the Repo & Securities Lending industry.  In conjunction with Pierpoint Securities Finance Academy and sister company, Fintuition, I have compiled an 11-week state-of-the-art virtual training/education course on the Fundamentals of Repo. You can learn more about the course here: https://www.pierpoint.info/courses/the-fundamentals-of-repo. It is now available. I think you will find it a very informative, complete, and an entertaining version of distanced learning, with my usual humor and my experience sprinkled across some 149 PowerPoint presentations within a new state-of-the-art Teachable system, with hours of my voiceovers, as well as 10 videos, and an exam. The course has international accreditation from Chartered Institute For Securities and Investment (CISI).  I suspect many companies have already budgeted to subscribe and relieve themselves of the burden of training their people in Repo, and leave it to one of the OG Repo dinosaurs. Lol. But, first, check out my friend, Professor Moorah Choudhry’s, FREE 30-minute Primer on Repo (at the same address), which introduces my course. 

So, I am NOT RETIRED from the Securities Finance industry. I am consulting with 2 large firms about repo issues and business plans. As I said, I am writing a magazine article.  I am also consulting with an electronic trading platform, and making headway on providing a large electronic solution for several markets.  Kidwell Consultants, LLC is also available FOR HIRE as a consultant. So, if you need my Securities Financing expertise or access to my vast network of about 9000 clients, call my mobile (646-753-1300), email (jeffkidwell82@gmail.com), or hit me up on LinkedIn.  

My Repo Commentary is posted FREE (it’s actually always been free) on my website:  http://www.repocommentary.com. It also pops up on LinkedIn, the Global Investors Group (ISF Magazine) website, and on CentralBanks.com as an op-ed. I am interested in entertaining you and taking your mind off the pressures you are under. 

Since its inception in 1982, the Repo Commentary does not represent the views of any of my former firms and reflects only my opinion and includes only publicly available information.  I make a strong effort to attribute any quotes or thoughts that are not my own, I do not make any marketing spiels, and I really am more interested (70-80%) in entertaining you than boring (20-30%) you with too much market info. Feel free, as always, to send me information or pictures, to make it better! 

I hope everyone had good holidays and a Happy New Year!!! I know that you will all see this on 01/07/21, which is the day before Elvis Presley’s birthday, so I wanted to wish the King of Rock n’ Roll an early Happy Birthday on 1/8. He would be 86-years-old. 

Holidays or Events (01/19:

• As I write this today (1/18), most US traders and exchanges are closed, because it is Martin Luther King Day here in the US, celebrating the great civil rights leader.

• Artist as Outlaw Day

• Brew a Potion Day

• Good Memory Day

• Gun Appreciation Day

• New Friends Day

• Printing Ink Day

• National Popcorn Day

• Rid the World of Fad Diet and Gimmicks Day

• Tin Can Day

• World Quark Day

• Tenderness Toward Existence Day

• Husband’s Day in Iceland

• Kokborok Day (Tripura, India)

• Theophany/Epiphany (Eastern and Oriental Orthodoxy)

Some Famous People Born on (01/19):

• 399-Pulcheria, Byzantine Empress and Saint

• 1200-Dogen Genji, founder of Soto Zen

• 1544-Francis II of France

• 1803-Sarah Helen Whitman, American poet, essayist, and romantic interest of Edgar Allan Poe

• 1807-Robert E. Lee, American general of the Confederate Army during the American Civil War

• 1809-Edgar Allan Pie, American short story writer, poet, and critic

• 1839-Paul Cezanne, French painter

• 1908-Ish Kabibble, American comedian and cornet player

• 1930-Tippi Hedren, American model, actress, and animal rights-welfare activist

• 1939-Phil Everly, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (Everly Brothers)

• 1942-Michael Crawford, English actor and singer, original Phantom in PHANTOM OF THE OPERA

• 1943-Janis Joplin, American singer-songwriter

• 1944-Shelley Fabares, American actress and singer

• 1944-Thom Mayen, American architect and academic, designed the San Francisco Federal Building and Phare Tower

• 1945-Trevor Williams, English singer-songwriter and bass player

• 1946-Dolly Parton, American singer-songwriter and actress

• 1947-Paula Deen, American  chef and author

• 1949-Robert Palmer, English singer-songwriter and guitarist

• 1953-Desi Arnaz Jr., American actor and singer

• 1955-Paul Rodriguez, Mexican-American comedian and actor

• 1957-Ottis Anderson, American football player and sportscaster

• 1962-Jeff Van Gundy, American basketball player and coach

• 1966-Stefan Edberg, Swedish tennis player and coach

• 1969-Junior Seau, American football player

• 1971-Shawn Wayans, American actor, producer, and screenwriter

Daily Weird Facts:

Although both are sea waves, a tsunami is not a tidal wave. A tidal wave is the wave motion of the tides and is a shallow water wave caused by the gravitational interactions of the Sun, Moon, and Earth. A tsunami is a huge catastrophic wave that can cause enormous damage and fatalities. It is usually caused by severe storms or major earthquakes. 

Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”—Martin Luther King, Jr.

Currency and Commodity Markets:

Oil prices closed at:

$74.34/barrel on 10/5/18 

$47.66/barrel on 12/23 

$48.63 on 01/07/19 

$52.31/barrel on 01/16 

$55.26/barrel on 2/3 

$55.41/barrel on 2/26

$73.77/barrel on 4/29

$63.28/barrel on 5/17

$54.07/barrel on 6/18

$55.96/barrel on 7/24

$58.31/barrel on 9/10

$53.50/barrel on 10/2

$59.10/barrel on 12/8

$58.81/barrel on 1/17/20

$54.39/barrel on 2/7

$35.92/barrel on 3/11

$27.15/barrel on 3/18

$29.90/barrel on 3/23

$27.43/barrel on 3/27

$24.90/barrel on 4/01

$31.80/barrel on 4/12

$28.31/barrel on 4/17

$20.03/barrel on 4/27

$26.78/barrel on 5/04

$30.39/barrel on 5/09 

$35.69/barrel on 5/20

$39.78/barrel on 6/04

$43.37/barrel on 7/27

$43.17/barrel on 11/9

$45.13/barrel on 11/30

$50.73/barrel on 12/15

$50.70/barrel on 01/04

$52.92/barrel on 01/19

Oil prices have rallied back to pre-COVID-19 prices. The price of gasoline at my West Palm Beach station has risen 10 cents higher in the past 2 weeks, to $2.19/gallon.

One USD versus the Yen was trading at (these are all around Repo Commentary dates):

112.20 on 12/24 

108.60 on 01/07 

109.07 on 01/16 

103.18 on 02/03 

104.86 on 2/25

103.86 on 5/17

102.59 on 6/18

102.43 on 7/24

101.72 on 9/10

102.16 on 10/02

102.96 on 12/06

104.30 on 01/17/20

104.80 on 02/07/20

99.23 on 03/11/20

101.67 on 03/18/20

104.77 on 03/24/20

102.22 on 04/13/20

102.14 on 04/19/20

101.57 on 04/27/20

106.82 on 05/04/20

100.80 on 05/10/20

102.04 on 05/20/20

103.32 on 06/04/20

100.05 on 07/27/20 

105.26 on 11/10/20

104.38 on 11/30/20

103.55 on 12/16/20

103.15 on 01/04/21

103.92 on 01/19/21

One Euro was trading on:

12/24 at $1.1426 

01/07 at $1.1478 

01/16 at $1.1396 

02/03 at $1.2047

02/25 at $1.1955

05/17 at $1.1761

06/18 at $1.1825

07/24 at $1.1740

09/10 at $1.1623

10/02 at $1.1504

12/06 at $1.1688

01/17 at $1.1721

02/07 at $1.1543

03/11 at $1.1937

03/18 at $1.1575

03/24 at $1.1400

04/13 at $1.1523

04/19 at $1.1394

04/27 at $1.1407

05/04 at $1.0903

05/10 at $1.1402

05/20 at $1.1522

06/04 at $1.1795

07/27 at $1.2314

11/10 at $1.1821

11/30 at $1.1925

12/16 at $1.2196

01/04 at $1.2246

01/19 at $1.2137

One British Pound was trading on:

12/24 at $1.2655 

01/07 at $1.2770 

01/16 at $1.2880 

02/03 at $1.3758

02/25 at $1.3728

05/17 at $1.3427

06/18 at $1.3157

07/24 at $1.3070

09/10 at $1.2959

10/02 at $1.2882

12/06 at $1.3819

01/17 at $1.3753

02/07 at $1.3574

03/11 at $1.354

03/18 at $1.2665

03/24 at $1.2231

04/13 at $1.3143

04/19 at $1.3058

04/27 at $1.3052

05/04 at $1.2435

05/10 at $1.3005

05/20 at $1.2844

06/04 at $1.3136

07/27 at $1.3458

11/10 at $1.3255

11/30 at $1.3319 

12/16 at $1.3494

01/04 at $1.3571

01/19 at $1.3614

One USD versus the CAD at:

1.3442 on 12/24 

1.3297 on 01/07 

1.3255 on 01/16 

1.2492 on 2/03

1.2492 on 2/25

1.2800 on 5/17

1.2740 on 6/18

1.2480 on 7/24

1.2520 on 9/10

1.2560 on 10/02

1.2530 on 12/06

1.2390 on 01/17


1.2640 on 02/07

1.3020 on 03/11 

1.3540 on 03/18

1.3690 on 03/24

1.3250 on 04/13

1.3390 on 04/19

1.3350 on 04/27

1.4090 on 05/04

1.3250 on 05/10

1.3250 on 05/20

1.2850 on 06/04

1.2730 on 07/27

1.3014 on 11/10

1.3000 on 11/30 

1.2752 on 12/16

1.2787 on 01/04

1.2740 on 01/19

On 10/02/19, Gold closed at $1498.70/ounce. On 3/11/20 (one day after ‘pandemic’ declared), it closed at $1,641/ounce. On 07/27/20, Gold reached a record $1,944.71/ounce, as investors continued to pour money into the safe-haven. But, as of 11/10/20, it was trading at $1,880.30, having backed off the highs. It has continued to back off those highs, closed on 11/30/20 at 1,774.00. On 12/16/20, gold was back up to $1,858.20. On 01/04/21, it was up to $1,948.00. Today (01/19/21), it is trading at $1,839.02 per ounce.

Bitcoin was trading at (around Repo Commentary Dates):

$8,185.21 on 7/25 

$6,350 on 10/5

$3,774.97 on 12/24/18

$3,7774.97 on 01/07 

$3,598.90 on 01/16 

$3,421.10 on 02/06 

$3,826.44 on 02/26

$8,100.00 on 05/16

$7,215.79 on 05/17

$9,088.59 on 06/18

$11,919.30 on 06/25

$9,790.37 on 07/24

$10,183.90 on 09/10

$8,235.46 on 10/02

$7,470.41 on 12/06
$8,876.87 on 01/17/20

$9,793.18 on 02/07/20

$7,871.60 on 03/11/20

$5,216.64 on 03/18/20

$6,728.03 on 03/24/20

$6,646.60 on 03/27/20

$6,443.44 on 03/31/20

$6,908.13 on 04/12/20

$7,128.45 on 04/19/20

$7,748.29 on 04/27/20

$8,775.36 on 05/04/20

$8,771.73 on 05/10/20

$9,525.54 on 05/20/20

$9,794.46 on 06/04/20

$10,849.00 on 07/27/20

$15,160.90 on 11/10/20

$19,411.50 on 11/30/20

$20,665.10 on 12/16/20

$31,592.20 on 01/04/21

$37,144.50 on 01/19/21 (it did hit $40,675 on 01/08, but has retreated a bit since then)

After rebounding in 2019 dramatically since the beginning of the year, although certainly not to its $19,000 high, Bitcoin hit a wall at the beginning of the Summer of 2019, then rallied during the Summer, and tumbled again in Q4, and had rallied in early in 2020.  It then gave up all of those 2020 gains with the COVID-19 contagion. On 3/13/20, it cratered at $3,867. It rallied sharply in the last few weeks before the ‘halving event’ on 5/12/20, its 3rd halving event.  But, Bitcoin then began replacing Gold as the safe-haven of choice for some investors from the weakening US dollar and risk of rising inflation. There was also growing interest from institutional investors. After sneaking up again to all-time record territory above $19,000, it broke through and rocketed to a new record, where it is in that territory now. Since I last reported two weeks ago, when it was 6-7 times higher than the low from March, it has more than doubled again (now nearly 10 times higher than that March low)! JPMorgan now says that Bitcoin could rally to $100,000! One market follower said on Twitter: “it’s not a rally. It’s not a bubble. It’s a chain reaction spreading like a fire in cyberspace.”

Brexit:

The UK technically left the EU on 1/31/20, but the subsequent deal between the two came into force 1/1/21. Most UK drivers will still be able to use their normal driving license while driving in EU countries. However, there are some exceptions, such as those with paper licenses and licenses issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man. Those people will need and additional International Driving Permit (IDP), which can be purchased at Post Offices. There are two types of IDPs, depending on which countries you will be driving in. As for car insurance, you will need to provide proof that you vehicle is insured while driving in Europe, which is in the form of a green card, which needs to be procured from your insurer before you travel to Europe. There are varying rules on whether you need a GB sticker on your license plate or not, depending on the plate you have and which country you are traveling to. 

The Guardian writes that Brexiters are waking up to the damage they have done. For Britain’s chemical industry, Brexit’s red tape is now beginning. Financial markets and firms’ shift to France and out of London, is beginning to accelerate, per Bloomberg. The Bank of France sees the chance to improve financial structure. Europe still needs to set up its own operations, including clearing houses. By the end of 2020, financial institutions had transferred about 2,500 jobs and EU 170 billion in assets to France from the UK. Germany’s Bundesbank says EU 400 billion in assets had been already transferred there. Morgan Stanley is reportedly shifting EU 100 billion in assets to Germany in the coming months. The ECB has estimated that when the dust settles, some 24 banks will move to the Eurozone and bring with them EU 1.3 trillion. Meanwhile, cross-channel Brexit cargo rejections are increasing, particularly hurting Scotland’s seafood and shellfish markets. Boris Johnson is promising GBP 23 million in compensation for exporters who have lost orders due to delays. Supermarkets in Northern Ireland are suffering lack of supplies from England. Some lorry drivers were shocked when they arrived in Amsterdam, as inspectors confiscated their ham sandwich lunches.  The new regulations are not just about the cargo in the back of the lorry, but also food products in the front cab. 

Global Financial News:

President Biden has nominated Rohit Chopra to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). He has also chosen Gary Gensler to lead the SEC, which signals tougher scrutiny. Rohit Chopra is from the FTC. JPMorgan Chase says its current cash holdings and marketable securities exceed regulatory requirements by about $450 billion, while Q4 earnings reports from Citigroup, PNC Financial Services and Wells Fargo also show that their cash assets have swelled. It appears that US banks are facing a dilemma of where to deploy these assets. The upcoming G-7 summit will take place in Cornwall, hosted by the UK.and will focus on the global economic recovery from COVID-19. Bank of America b eat profit expectations, but missed on revenue. It was still $20.2 billion in revenue, which Adam Sandler would say is “not too shabby”. A corporate bond rally has carried into 2021, as low borrowing rates and optimism on further economic relief, coupled with COVID-19 vaccines are bolstering confidence in companies withstanding the pandemic.  Financial firms are increasingly turning to digital labor to keep up with surging workloads and to adapt to changes brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. Broadridge has been discussing the role digital labor is playing in the financial services and how the pandemic is accelerating digital transformation across the industry. Blackrock has acquired a minority interest in data science and sustainable investing analytics firm, Clarity AI, which will be incorporated into its investment operations platform Aladdin. This will ultimately provide users information on the social and environmental impact of more than 30,000 companies. Fitch Ratings has formed a partnership with integrity rating firm Sigma Partners to improve its ability to quickly detect misconduct by banks. The new Congress could open the door to cannabis banking. Remember, one of the problems with the burgeoning cash industry, like in Colorado, is that growers and retailers can’t put the cash in federal or national banks, because it is not legalized nationally, only in specific states. Currently, that would violate federal banking laws. Wells Fargo will close about 250 branches in 2021, as part of its $8 billion cost-cutting plan.  Since the end of Brexit transition period, US platforms have benefited from up to 50% of Euro and Sterling interest rate swaps trading moving from Europe and UK to the US. 

US Market News:

At levels above the magic 30,000, the Dow is now well above its pre-pandemic peak of 29,569. The Dow jumped 200 points today on better-than-expected Goldman Sachs earnings, China GDP, Facebook upgrade, and further US stimulus hopes. The market is now focusing on this week’s President Biden inauguration. 

Here are the latest DJIA closes, just to demonstrate the massive volatility:

01/18/21   30,814.26

12/15/20   30,199.31

12/01/20   29,823.92

11/09/20   29,157.97

07/24/20   26,469.89

07/23/20   26,652.33

07/22/20   27,005.84

07/21/20   26,840.40

07/20/20   26,680.87

07/17/20   26,671.95

07/16/20   26,734.71

07/15/20   26,870.10

07/14/20   26,642.59

07/13/20   26,085.80

07/10/20   26,075.30

07/09/20   25,706.09

07/08/20   26,067.28

07/07/20   25,890.18

07/06/20   26,287.03

07/02/20   25,827.36

07/01/20   25,734.97

06/30/20   25,812.88

06/29/20   25,595.80

06/26/20   25,015.55

06/25/20   25,745.60

06/24/20   25,445.94

06/23/20   26,156.10

06/22/20   26,024.96

06/19/20   25,871.46

06/18/20   26,080.10

06/17/20   26,119.61

06/16/20   26,289.98

06/15/20   25,763.16

06/12/20   25,605.54

06/11/20   25,128.17

06/10/20   26,989.99

06/09/20   27,272.30

06/08/20   27,572.44

06/05/20   27,110.98

6/04/20     26,281.82

6/03/20     26,269.89

6/02/20     25,742.65

6/01/20     25,475.02

5/29/20     25,383.11

5/28/20     25,400.64

5/27/20     25,548.27

5/26/20     24,995.11

5/22/20     24,465.16

5/21/20     24,474.12

5/20/20     24,575.90

5/19/20     24,206.86

5/18/20     24,597.37

5/15/20     23,685.42

5/14/20     23,625.34

5/13/20     23,247.57

5/12/20     23,764.76

5/11/20     24,221.99

5/08/20     24,331.32

5/07/20     23,875.89

5/06/20     23,664.64

5/05/20     23,883.09

5/04/20     23,749.76

5/01/20     23,723.69

4/30/20     24,345.72

4/29/20     24,633.86

4/28/20     24,101.55

4/27/20     24,133.78

4/24/20     23,775.27

4/23/20     23,515.26

4/22/20     23,475.82

4/21/20     23,018.88

4/20/20     23,650.44

4/17/20     24,242.49

4/16/20     23,537.68

4/15/20     23,504.35

4/14/20     23,949.76

4/13/20     23,390.77

4/10/20     market closed

4/09/20    23,719.37

4/08/20     23,433.57

4/07/20     22,653.86

4/06/20     22,679.99

4/03/20     21,052.53

4/02/20     21,413.44

4/01/20     20,943.51

3/31/20     21,917.16

3/30/20     22,327.48

3/27/20     21,636.78

3/26/20     22,552.17

3/25/20     21,200.55
3/24/20     20,704.91 

3/23/20    18,591.93

3/20/20    19,173.98

3/19/20    20,087.19

3/18/20     19,898.92 

3/17/20     21,237.38

3/16/20     20,188.52

3/13/20     23,185.62

3/12/20     21,200.62 

3/11/20     23,553.22

3/10/20     25,018.16

3/09/20     23,851.02

3/06/20     25,864.78

3/05/20     26,121.28

3/04/20     27,090.86

3/03/20     25,917.41

3/02/20     26,703.32

2/28/20     25,409.36

2/27/20     25,766.64

2/26/20     26,957.59

2/25/20     27,081.36

2/24/20     27,960.80

2/21/20     28,992.41

2/20/20     29,219.98

2/19/20     29,348.03

2/12/20     29,551.42 record high

S&P has regained everything it lost since 3/11 pandemic announcement, and more, breaking above the high set in early September 2020.  It set a record on 12/8 of 3,702.25, and is now hovering just above that. 

S&P 500 has closed on:

10/5/18 at 2,885.58 

12/26/18 at 2,467.70 

01/07/19 at 2,549.69 

01/16/19 at 2,616.10 

02/06/19 at 2,706.53 

02/25/19 at 2,799.34

05/16/19 at 2,876.32

06/18/19 at 2,917.75

07/24/19 at 3,019.56 

09/10/19 at 2,969.04

10/02/19 at 2,906.94 

12/06/19 at 3,145.91

01/17/20 at 3,329.62

02/07/20 at 3,335.27 down 10.51 from new all-time high

03/12/20 at 2,480.64

03/17/20 at 2,529.19

03/23/20 at 2,237.40

03/26/20 at 2,630.07

03/31/20 at 2,584.59

04/09/20 at 2,789.82

04/17/20 at 2,830.88

04/24/20 at 2,854.65

05/08/20 at 2,929.80

05/19/20 at 2,922.35

06/03/20 at 3,130.94

07/24/20 at 3,215.63

11/09/20 at 3,550.50

12/01/20 at 3,662.45

12/15/20 at 3,647.49

01/18/21 at 3,768.25

Nasdaq proposed rules that would require firms listed on the exchange to name 2 or more diverse members to the board, or explain why they haven’t done so. Nasdaq is now at record high. Nasdaq closed on:

10/5/18 at 7,788.45

12/26/18 at 6,554.36

01/07/19 at 6,823.47

01/16/19 at 7,034.70

02/06/19 at 7,263.87

02/25/19 at 7,561.87

05/16/19 at 7,898.05

06/18/19 at 7,953.68

07/24/19 at 8,321.50 

09/10/19 at 8,043.58

10/02/19 at 7,809.22 

12/06/19 at 8,656.07

01/17/20 at 9,388.95

02/07/20 at 9,555.96 down 16.19 from new all-time high 

03/12/20 at 7,201.80

03/17/20 at 7,334.78

03/23/20 at 6,860.67

03/26/20 at 7,797.54

03/31/20 at 7,700.10

04/09/20 at 8,153.58

04/17/20 at 8,650.14

04/27/20 at 8,730.16

05/08/20 at 9,121.32

05/19/20 at 9,185.10

06/04/20 at 9,615.81 don’t look now, but we have set a new record high, above the previous high of 2/07/20!

07/24/20 at 10,363.18 we continue in uncharted territory

11/09/20 at 11,713.78 just off the record high on 11/05/20

12/01/20 at 12,355.11 

12/15/20 at 12.505.06

01/18/21 at 12,998.50

The US Treasury curve has steepened even more Wednesday, on the heels of news that Democrats had won the first of two Senate runoffs, which immediately raised 10year Treasury yields over the 1.00% mark, for the first time since March 2020. 

2 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 2.88%

12/18/18 at 2.65%

01/07/19 at 2.53%

01/16/19 at 2.55%

02/06/19 at 2.52%

02/22/19 at 2.48%

05/16/19 at 2.20%

06/18/19 at 1.86%

07/24/19 at 1.83%

09/09/19 at 1.58%

10/01/19 at 1.56%

12/06/19 at 1.61%

01/17/20 at 1.58%

02/06/20 at 1.44%

03/11/20 at 0.50%

03/17/20 at 0.47%

03/23/20 at 0.28% wow!

03/26/20 at 0.30%

03/31/20 at 0.23%

04/09/20 at 0.23%

04/17/20 at 0.20% 

04/27/20 at 0.24%

05/10/20 at 0.16% historic low

05/19/20 at 0.17%

06/03/20 at 0.19%

07/24/20 at 0.14% new historic low

11/09/20 at 0.17%

12/01/20 at 0.17%

12/15/20 at 0.11% wow really low!

01/04/21 at 0.11%

01/15/21 at 0.13%

3 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 2.99%

12/18/18 at 2.64%

01/07/19 at 2.47% (inverted to 2years)

01/16/19 at 2.53%

02/06/19 at 2.50%

02/22/19 at 2.46%

05/16/19 at 2.15%

06/18/19 at 1.80%

07/24/19 at 1.79%

09/09/19 at 1.52%

10/01/19 at 1.51%

12/06/19 at 1.64%

01/17/20 at 1.58%

02/06/20 at 1.43%

03/11/20 at 0.58%

03/17/20 at 0.54%

03/23/20 at 0.31% wow!

03/26/20 at 0.36%

03/31/20 at 0.29%

04/09/20 at 0.29%

04/17/20 at 0.26%

04/27/20 at 0.29%

05/10/20 at 0.21%

05/19/20 at 0.22%

06/03/20 at 0.26%

07/24/20 at 0.17% wow!

11/09/20 at 0.25%

12/01/20 at 0.22%

12/15/20 at 0.18% 

01/04/21 at 0.16% wow!

01/15/21 at 0.20%

5 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.07%

12/18/18 at 2.65%

01/07/19 at 2.49%

01/16/19 at 2.54%

02/06/19 at 2.51%

02/22/19 at 2.47%

05/16/19 at 2.18%

06/18/19 at 1.83%

07/24/19 at 1.82%

09/09/19 at 1.49%

10/01/19 at 1.51%

12/06/19 at 1.67%

01/17/20 at 1.63%

02/07/20 at 1.45%

03/11/20 at 0.66%

03/17/20 at 0.56%

03/23/20 at 0.38% 

03/26/20 at 0.51%

03/31/20 at 0.37%

04/09/20 at 0.41%

04/17/20 at 0.36%

04/27/20 at 0.41%

05/10/20 at 0.33%

05/19/20 at 0.35%

06/03/20 at 0.38%

07/24/20 at 0.27% wow!

11/09/20 at 0.44%

12/01/20 at 0.42%

12/15/20 at 0.37%

01/04/21 at 0.36%

01/15/21 at 0.46%

7 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.18%

12/18/18 at 2.74%

01/07/19 at 2.60%

01/16/19 at 2.62%

02/06/19 at 2.59%

02/22/19 at 2.55%

05/16/19 at 2.28%

06/18/19 at 1.93%

07/24/19 at 1.93%

09/09/19 at 1.57%

10/01/19 at 1.59%

12/06/19 at 1.78%

01/17/20 at 1.74%

02/06/20 at 1.56%

03/11/20 at 0.78%

03/17/20 at 0.91%

03/23/20 at 0.63% 

03/26/20 at 0.72%

03/31/20 at 0.55%

04/09/20 at 0.60%

04/17/20 at 0.53%

04/27/20 at 0.56%

05/10/20 at 0.53%

05/19/20 at 0.54%

06/03/20 at 0.59%

07/24/20 at 0.44%

11/09/20 at 0.70% back to near pre-COVID level

12/01/20 at 0.68%

12/15/20 at 0.64%

01/04/21 at 0.64%

01/15/21 at 0.78% what a jump!

10 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.23%

12/18/18 at 2.82%

01/07/19 at 2.70%

01/16/19 at 2.73%

02/06/19 at 2.70%

02/22/19 at 2.65%

05/16/19 at 2.40%

06/18/19 at 2.06%

07/24/19 at 2.05%

09/09/19 at 1.83%

10/01/19 at 1.65% dramatic drop in one month!

12/06/19 at 1.84% dramatic rise in two months!

01/17/20 at 1.84%

02/06/20 at 1.65% and back down again!

03/11/20 at 0.82%

03/17/20 at 1.02% and back up again

03/23/20 at 0.76% and back down again

03/26/20 at 0.83%

03/31/20 at 0.70%

04/09/20 at 0.73%

04/17/20 at 0.65%

04/27/20 at 0.67%

05/10/20 at 0.69%

05/19/20 at 0.70%

06/03/20 at 0.77%

07/24/20 at 0.59%

11/09/20 at 0.96% back to pre-COVID level

12/01/20 at 0.92%

12/15/20 at 0.92%

01/04/21 at 0.93%

01/15/21 at 1.11% over the magic 1%

30 YEAR BONDS closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.40%

12/18/18 at 3.07%

01/07/19 at 2.99%

01/16/19 at 3.07%

02/06/19 at 3.03%
02/22/19 at 3.02%

05/16/19 at 2.84%

06/18/19 at 2.55%

07/24/19 at 2.58%

09/10/19 at 2.11%

10/01/19 at 2.11%

12/06/19 at 2.29%

01/17/20 at 2.29%

02/06/20 at 2.11%

03/11/20 at 1.30%

03/17/20 at 1.63% way up!

03/23/20 at 1.33% back down

03/26/20 at 1.42%

03/31/20 at 1.35%

04/09/20 at 1.35%

04/17/20 at 1.27%

04/27/20 at 1.29%

05/10/20 at 1.39%

05/19/20 at 1.43%

06/03/20 at 1.56%

07/24/20 at 1.23%

11/09/20 at 1.73% back to pre-COVID level

12/01/20 at 1.66%

12/15/20 at 1.65%

01/04/21 at 1.66%

01/15/21 at 1.85% what a jump!

Housing News:

2020 was a rough housing market year. The year began and COVID-19 shut construction down. It shut production of materials for construction. It left developers, builders, brokers, and mortgage bankers in a weird limbo as ‘non-essential’ workers. Five weeks into the pandemic, demand in the US housing market cratered due to the economic impact on the citizens. However, according to HousingWire, demand began to climb again after about 9 weeks. Unfortunately, there was little product to meet the demand. HousingWire says that there won’t be a Housing crash in 2021, despite media warnings to that effect, because the moderation of some housing data metrics, because home prices are still climbing at 6%, we would need a lot of forced selling and foreclosures (which could have happened since most forbearance plans for COVID-19 were due to end at the beginning of 2021) but the Biden administration is already proposing extending the national moratorium on evictions and foreclosures until 9/30/21. As we have seen, yields in the 10year-30year area have already begun climbing in the US Treasury market and so have mortgage rates. Wells Fargo is continuing to lose mortgage market share. A Texas realtor, Jenna Ryan, who was among the 40,000 people that stormed the US Capitol is now responding to public backlash. She has had criminal charges filed against her. The city of Carson has turned luxury apartments into 150 units of ‘workforce housing’. There were rumors that the outgoing President Trump administration would spring an 11th hour effort to privatize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but that was laid to rest when the two GSEs reached an agreement to limit their own growth, but without major structural changes. The agreement between the FHFA and the US Treasury includes a permanent ceiling on the agencies’ multifamily lending volume, requirements to focus on affordable housing, enabling them to0 retain much more of their profits, and an obligation to comply with rules that require them to set aside more regulatory capital. These provisions appear to put Fannie and Freddie on a path to stronger financial condition before completing the end of conservatorship. The agreement does leave more room for competitors to grab market share, as the two agencies are capped at $80 billion annually. In 2021, that cap goes down to $70 billion. Since 2008, when conservatorship began, Fannie and Freddie had to sweep all profits to the US Treasury. 

Repo/Securities Financing News:          

Tomorrow, there will be an exciting roll out of a new PAC product by Pierpoint Financial, which I will be involved in. And I won’t run another ad for the Finance Academy, since I ran it at the top of this Repo Commentary.  Please just take a look at: https://www.pierpoint.info/courses/the-fundamentals-of-repo. 

My friend, Scott Skyrm, points out that the danger in monetary policy in the US of ZIRP is that the target federal funds rate or repo rates could go NEGATIVE. Now, of course, we are chatting about General Collateral Repo rates, not Specials rates, which have many times traded at negative rates. Specials are specific CUSIPS in certain types of securities that have a completely different risk dynamic and supply/demand characteristics, both from the Primary and Secondary outright markets, along with the Repo Market and Securities Lending market. You can tell, I just wrote a Lesson all about this. Anyway, back in July 2013, as Scott points out, GC Repo Rates (US Treasuries) hit .05%, very close to ZERO, and the Fed began its RRP Program (very similar to my former Direct Repo product, disintermediating the primary dealers and going to their main cash providers). There are a number of reasons why Negative rates would not be good in the US or at least would be very disruptive.  As Scott points out, the Fed has a couple of options to head this off at the pass:

• Interest on Excess Reserves-the Fed could raise the IOER rate, which would incent banks to move reserves to the Fed and away from Repo, potentially raising repo rates.

• RRP-the Fed has the ability to raise the Repo rate on this program, even above market repo rates, incenting those cash providers to put their cash with the Fed, rather than other collateral providers, potentially raising repo rates. 

Well, we will find, out what the Fed intends to do today, after the second day of the current FOMC meeting.

In case you have been in a coma or are new to the Securities Financing market, this is broadly a summary of what has happened since the Financial Crisis.  

• Issuance of US Treasuries was about $10 trillion.

• The regulators, particularly the Federal Reserve, instituted emergency liquidity programs for each of the different sectors of the money market (CP, Corporate Bonds, Broker/Dealers, GSEs, etc.).  They eventually unwound those many programs.

• They opened up for a brief time the Discount Window to more participants and without the previous stigma attached, for collateral providers to access cash.

• They put FNMA and FHLMC into conservatorship. Now, they are trying to privatize them. 

• They began easing Monetary Policy massively for years.

• They began Quantitative Easing and built up the Fed’s balance sheet to $4.5 trillion. They added to it by buying more securities every month from the paydowns on their MBS portfolio.

• They propped up some of the 47 primary broker/dealers, allowed some to fail, and helped others to consolidate/merge. There are now 22 primary dealers.

• The Repo Market shrunk in the US from about $7 trillion to $3 trillion, before recent increase to about $3.8 trillion (the Fed argues it is $4 trillion now).

• Regulators instituted mountains of new reforms, especially the 310 new rules of Dodd-Frank, globally to decrease the likelihood of systemic risk in the financial system and to force, particularly the broker/dealers and GSIB banks to hold more capital/reserves for liquidity.

• The market began looking for alternatives to financing through the fewer and crimped broker/dealers via CCPs, peer-to-peer financing, Sponsored Repo, and electronic trading platforms (some of which I initiated).

• The Fed began its much hailed RRP program, kind of like a P2P repo, which added over 300 cash providers from the Repo market to finance the Fed’s balance sheet and provide ‘liquidity’ for those cash providers. Of course, that didn’t help the Primary Dealers, who were using those cash providers to finance their own balance sheets. 

• The Fed stopped QE and began reducing their balance sheet down to $2.5 trillion.

• The US Treasury began ramping up issuance to the tune of about $1 trillion more, which is funneled through the 24 primary broker/dealers and the central banks.

• The Fed began tightening monetary policy and tinkering with new measures of repo rates and LIBOR replacement.  They also began tinkering with the Interest on Excess Reserves (IOER) from banks and credit unions, to try to create higher reserves.

• COVID-19 pandemic hit. The Fed did an about-face and began easing monetary policy immediately. They also went back to doing daily System RPs and Term RPs with the primary dealers.  They had also lowered IOER.  They now have raised IOER. 

• The Fed effectively reinstated QE, injected at least $500 billion to buy US Treasuries again, $200 billion to buy Agency MBS again, and injected funds into the Dollar Roll market. They have said their buying power is unlimited. They have purchased about $733 billion in securities so far. They actually started QE BEFORE COVID-19, to raise “bank reserves” in Q4 2019. 

• They then began reinstating specific bailout/backstop programs of 2008, and continue to add to the list.

• QE purchases are winding down slowly, about $2 billion per day.  That would have QE end sometime in June. Of course, they can always restart QE. Open Market Operations (RP Operations) have continued, although at a less hectic pace.

• Issuance of US Treasuries hit $23.5 trillion, and is expected to go higher.

• The Fed rolled out their Main Street Lending Program to mid-market companies. 

• Basel IV is now coming, after Basel III began being implemented.

Securities Finance Industry Conferences: (most conferences from March on were postponed, cancelled, or made virtual. The problem is that free virtual conferences/gatherings/networking is not a Business Model. So, Pierpoint’s new PAC concept will provide a solution here.)

• Deutsche Borse/Clearstream/Securities Lending Times held their annual GFF Summit in Luxembourg, 1/28-1/30/20, which I attended two years ago.

• IMN 26th Beneficial Owners International Securities Finance conference will be held in Fort Lauderdale, FL on 2/12-2/13/20. I was the Chairperson in 2019 and will be a moderator this year.  That has been my last Repo conference so far this year.

• iMoneyNet/Informa annual MMExpo, after the merger.  I have spoken at this one several times.

• PASLA/RMA 17th annual Conference on Asian Securities Lending.

• GIOA 16th annual conference. I have spoken (and sung) at this one. 

• Crane Data annual Bond Fund Symposium.

• IHS Markit annual Securities Finance Forum.  

• Finadium 4th annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference in NYC.  I’ve spoken and sponsored this one.

• GFOA gigantic 114th (wow!) annual conference.  I have attended this one in the past and manned one of 250 booths.

• IMN/AFME annual Global Bank ABS (West) conference.

• Worldwide Business Research annual Fixed Income Leaders USA Summit.

• ISLA 29th Annual Securities Finance and Collateral Management conference.  I have spoken (and sung) at this one before.

• ICMA/Securities Lending Times annual AGM and conference.

• Crane Data annual Money Fund Symposium. I have spoken at this conference before.

• National Association of State Treasurers annual conference.  I’ve spoken and sung at this one.

• IMN annual European Securities Finance conference.  I’ve attended this before.  

• Worldwide Business Research annual Fixed Income & FX Leader Summit.

• IMN annual ABS East conference. I’ve attended this before.

• Worldwide Business Research Fixed Income Leaders 2020 conference 

• RMA will hold its 38th annual Conference on Securities Finance and Collateral Management in Amelia Island, FL on October 12-15.  I saw many of you last year in Boca Raton.  It was my 37th RMA I’ve attended. WAS CANCELLED FOR ONLY THE 2nd TIME (FIRST WAS AFTER 9/11/01).

• Crane Data annual European Money Fund Symposium.    

• Finadium Investors in Securities Lending Conference Europe.

• American Financial Professionals (AFP) annual conference.

• Finadium Rates & Repo conference in New York.  I’ve spoken and sponsored this one.

• Risk.net annual conference. I’ve chaired this one. 

• SIFMA annual meeting.

• GFMA annual Conference on Sustainable Finance will be held virtually on 12/3/20.

• FIS is holding a Webinar on trends in Securities Finance on 12/9/20. 

Federal Reserve News:

The Fed Funds rate, which is still the target rate of Federal Reserve monetary policy and changes to which are made by and announced by the FOMC at regularly scheduled meetings, is currently set at 0.00-0.25% (remember, the Fed has been using a target ‘range’ for a while). It has actually been trading closer to 0.035% lately. The Federal Reserve posts an Effective Fed Funds Rate (EFFR).  The Overnight Bank Funding Rate (OBFR), is also published by the NY Fed to capture the volume-weighted median of overnight federal funds transactions, Eurodollar transactions, and the domestic deposits reported by banks.  

The next FOMC meetings (and they are all two-day meetings so these are the second day, when they actually announce) are:  : 01/27/21, 03/17/21, 04/28/21, 06/16/21, 07/28/21, 09/22/21, 11/03/21, and 12/15/21. All of the meetings are two-day meetings. I have listed the 2nd day.

The Federal Reserve’s Reverse Repo Facility (RRP), which has over 300 approved participants (mostly banks, GSEs, and MMFs) is used as a tool by the Federal Reserve, along with its Fed Funds target-setting monetary policy, and IOER for depository institutions, to help control short-term interest rates. The Fed is currently only repoing out US Treasuries from its portfolio and typically only Overnight. Not ironically, the approved members of this facility are actually the cash providers for the Fed’s own 22 Primary Dealers, who lately haven’t had the collateral available for these cash providers, partly because of regulations that the Fed, in a small part, has monitored to reduce balance sheets of Primary Dealers. In a weird family dance, the US Treasury is issuing collateral that the Primary Dealers sometimes have to buy and the Fed is providing through RPs the same collateral for the Primary Dealers to reverse repo, while at the same time, the Fed is providing the same collateral to many of the cash providers of the Primary Dealers in RRP. Sounds kind of like a Repo mis-Matched Book, to me. Is there a CCAR for them?

Former Fed Chair, Janet Yellen, is President Biden’s nominee for US Treasury Secretary. She is calling for action to quell the COVID-19 virus and restart the US economy. She also said to lawmakers that the government will not pursue a weaker dollar to secure a competitive advantage (or to pay the mounds of debt back with devalued US dollars.) This stance is opposite to what the Trump Administration wanted. She was in her confirmation hearing with the Senate Finance Committee. She is expected to also disclose the details on the upcoming $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief proposal. 

Earthquakes and Volcanoes:

An earthquake on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi killed at least 92 people and injured more than 900 others. Here are the latest significant earthquakes over the last couple of days.  It is suddenly extremely active, particularly in South America, the Middle East, and Russia.

4.6 01/19 Fiji Region

4.2 01/19 Jurm, Afghanistan

4.5 01/19 NNE of Hihifo, Tonga

4.8 01/19 W of Hihifo, Tonga

4.7 01/19 N of Amahgai, Indonesia

4.3 01/19 SW of Pocito, Argentina

5.2 01/19 NNW of Dili, Timor Liste

4.8 01/18 WSW of Pocito, Argentina

4.9 01/18 WSW of Pocito, Argentina

5.3 01/18 WNW of Pocito, Argentina

4.9 01/18 SW of Pocito, Argentina

6.4 01/18 WSW of Pocito, Argentina

4.9 01/18 NNE of Palu, Indonesia

4.4 01/18 WSW of Golhisar, Turkey

4.4 01/18 ESE of Slamanca, Chile

4.7 01/18 ESE of Ofuhato, Japan

4.3 01/18 Russia-Mongolia border

4.7 01/18 SE of Lebedinyy, Russia

4.4 01/18 SE of Yatou, China

5.3 01/18 S of the Kermadec Islands

4.5 01/18 N of Bandar Abbas, Iran

Weather:

West Palm Beach has had mercifully 70-degree weather for the past week. A strong low pressure is centered off the Southern California Coast and is producing high winds in the Sierra-Nevada mountains, and central and southern coastal regions. Very dry conditions, combined with these high winds will produce extremely dangerous fire weather threats in the central and southern coastal regions. There is also heavy snow in the South and Central Rocky Mountains, and in the Great Lakes. There is heavy rain in Hawaii, which will continue. The Northeast is protected by a strong low pressure centered just off the coast, keeping conditions fairly dry. Typically, weather moves from the Great Lakes Region east to New England within one or two days. But, this low may keep the heavy snow at bay. A major snowstorm in Japan caused a 130-car pile-up on the Tohoku Expressway, killing one person and injuring 10 others. 

The Atlantic Hurricane Season begins June 1st and ends November 30th. 

According to Accuweather, the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was expected to have a more-active-than-normal season. They expected about 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 4 of them major hurricanes.  CSU was predicting an above-average hurricane season in the Atlantic for 2020, with the likely absence of El Nino. Tropical and subtropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures are higher than normal, which tends to promote active hurricane seasons. Consequently, CSU predicted 16 named storms in the Atlantic, with 8 to become Hurricanes, and 4 to reach Category 3 or above strength.  

It turns out that they were both wrong, and it became the record worst or most active tropical cyclone season ever in the Atlantic. There were 30 tropical or subtropical cyclones, 30 named tropical storms, 14 hurricanes, and 6 major hurricanes. There were also 12 US landfalls, which broke the 2016 record of 9. And it is not over yet! There is still tropical activity that has a chance to form into a Tropical Storm or more. 28 named storms was the previous record, held by the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season as the most active, and also only the second hurricane season to have to use the Greek letter storm-naming system, after running out of the assigned names. To put this in perspective, an average Atlantic hurricane season produces only 12 named Tropical Storms, so 2020 was already 250% more active than average. And, it still may not be over!  Since 1900, tropical Atlantic Ocean temperatures have increased by 2 degrees Fahrenheit. There was no El Nino this year in the tropical Pacific Ocean, which usually means that the strong upper-level winds (wind shear) produced did not make it over to the Atlantic Ocean to battle hurricane formation. A La Nina formed late this hurricane season in the Pacific Ocean, which contributed to stronger storms in the latter half of the Atlantic Ocean season. The National Hurricane Center estimates there have only been 37 Category 5 storms in the last 170 years in the Atlantic Ocean. However, we have had 7 Category 5 storms in just the last five years!

The 2019 season had 18 named storms, matching 1969 for the 4th most-lively season in the past 150 years. 

The Pacific Hurricane Season starts 5/1/21 and ends 11/1/21

There are no tropical cyclones currently in the Eastern North Pacific or Central North Pacific currently.  

Sports News:       

MLB:

The 2019 MLB regular season began on 3/28 last year and ended on 9/30 (more than 6 months).  The Washington Nationals beat The Houston Astros in 7 games in The World Series. As these 2 teams played each other in March 2020, in the Spring Training facility that they share and that I sing the National Anthem at, the Spring Training season (and eventually MLB season) ended about 3/15, with the pandemic shutdown. MLB shut down both the Cactus League and Grapefruit League Spring Training about halfway through. Then, MLB cancelled the Minor League seasons for all 3 levels of the Minors. 

MLB finally came to an agreement with the MLBPA, and played a Summer Camp (short Spring Training) leading up to a 60-game, shortened, regular season of the 30 teams still aligned in 6 divisions, and still with AL and NL distinctions, which started 7/23/20. The games were played without fans, but the teams still travelled and didn’t not have the ‘Bubble Format’ of the NHL and NBA. That proved to be a mistake, as many games had to be postponed, doubleheadered, or cancelled for several teams, as COVID-19 outbreaks ran through teams.  This “asterisked regular season” ended on 9/27/20. In the World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Tampa Rays 4 games to 3, to win in an exciting (and rare) 7-game series. 

The MLB owners want to delay the start of 2021 season and have it be only 140 games, not 162.  However, MLB Players Association says that players are planning to start on time, and we have the makings of the same feud we had in 2020.  That feud, which started over the length of the season, moved on to forcing players to pro-rate their salaries downward based on the actual number of games played. Then, owners pressed for more salary concessions beyond that prorating and the final 60-game season wasn’t even fully played for most teams.  The owners appear to be using the pandemic as a way to get out of paying those full salaries for another year. Owners also want players to be vaccinated before beginning Spring Training.  I am hearing that Spring Training will likely be postponed, as my Boston Red Sox Fantasy Camp (which I considered playing in this year, now that I have a new knee) was cancelled to give Spring Training extra time. However, MLB intends to HAVE Spring Training, but they have not decided yet (according to my friends at the Marlins and Cardinals) whether they will have fans in the seats and whether they will do live National Anthems. Obviously, having sung 153 MLB games so far, that is very important to me, and I’ll keep you updated.  I have not heard back from the other ballpark for the Nationals and Astros.  The Yankees will acquire Greg Allen from the Padres. Rumors are that the Yankees have the inside track on acquiring ace Corey Kluber, although the Red Sox were among the 25 teams that watched Kluber work out here at Ballpark of the Palm Beaches (the Spring Training site for the Astros and Nationals). Cubs Kris Bryant is now a trade rumor, as is teammate Anthony Rizzo. The Cubs are in the midst of dumping payroll, last week sending ace Yu Darvish and his catcher, Victor Caratini, to the Padres for Zach Davies and 4 prospects. They are listening to offers on every player, including star catcher Willson Contreras. Javier Baez and Craig Kimbrel are also rumored to be tradeable, as they all become free agents after this season. The Padres rotation is impressive now, after adding Yu Darvish and Rays’ Blake Snell, both blockbuster trades last week. Now, they have added Joe Musgrove in a 3-team/7-player deal involving the Mets and Pirates yesterday. They join the World Series champ Dodgers and Yankees as the best odds to win the 2021 World Series and having the top rotations. The Braves and Nationals fill out the rest of the top 5 pitching rotations. Now, wait a minute! The braves just signed 2 of the best stars on the Indians’ squad, SS Francisco Lindor and pitcher Carlos Carrasco! Look at that rotation now, with Syndergaard (however healthy he is), DeGrom, Carassco, and Stroman. The nicest part for Carrasco is that the Mets previously signed his catcher James Mc Cann to a 4-year/$40.6 million contract this winter. The Nationals signed Jon Lester, 37, to a one-year deal.  Astros superstar and free agent, George Springer, is expected to reach a deal somewhere this week. The Astros gave him a qualifying offer of $18.9 million. The Mets and the Blue Jays have been the front-runners, both giving him 9-figure offers!  Despite all the trade rumors, the Red Sox have not traded fan-favorite LF Andrew Benintendi. Ace Corey Kluber signed, but not with the Red Sox, but instead their nemesis, Yankees, for one year/$11 million. Several teams made 8-figure offers and the Yankees’ wasn’t the highest. 

Golf:

Spilling over from the MLB section, Aaron Hicks from the Yankees, pulled off a 303-yard hole-in-one on a par-4 hole at Silverleaf in Scottsdale, AZ, while golfing with Tiger Woods’ niece, Cheyenne Woods, another pro golfer. She happened to film the whole thing on her phone. The PGA Tour 2021 season began in Hawaii, at Kapalua, at the Sentry Tournament of Champions last week. World No.1 is currently Dustin Johnson, who lives about 10 miles up the road from me in Florida. He had a masterful season last year (culminating in winning the Masters in November), although the schedule was a mess and shortened from the pandemic. Only 3 of the 4 Majors were played, and they were all mixed up in order. Bryson DeChambeau, who also had a pretty good 2020 season (including winning the Rocket Mortgage Classic in July with a 313-yard driving average and winning the US Open in September) told reporters that his goal this year is to achieve a 210 mph average ball speed!  He currently leads the Tour with a 192.8 mph ball speed. He has yet to break 200 mph barrier in competition, which he feels will finally give him the shot distance he desires. He has been hitting and taking notes from friend and top-ranked World Long Drive competitor, Kyle Berkshire, who set the world record for ball speed with 228 mph, on his way to winning the WLD Final in 2019. They each are helping each other, as Berkshire wants to revive his playing career. DeChambeau hit 211 mph on the range already at Kapalua and hit an 8-iron 205 yards! Normal amateur distance for an 8-iron is about 120-130 yards.  The PGA, after a 9-month delay, will be rolling out its pace of play policy. Phil Mickelson turned 50 in June 2020, but said he is not giving up the PGA Tour yet and moving to the Champions Tour. He said, “when I stop hitting bombs I’ll play the Champions Tour, but I’m hitting some crazy bombs right now.” Anyway, back in Hawaii, the Tournament of Champions was won by Harris English (yeah, me either) in a playoff win over Joaquin Niemann (again no me neither). They were one stroke ahead of Justin Thomas, and I know that name. So all the bombing with drivers that the other players above were going to do, didn’t get it done. I’ve played and loved that Plantation Course (had my longest drive of \355 there in fact), but nothing easy when your ball breaks uphill on the green “because the ocean is that way.”  The next tournament was the SONY Open at Wailae  Country Club on Maui (I also have played there), and Kevin Na (usually a sportscaster lately) won. The PGA Tour’s next tournament is The American Express at the PGA West Tournament Course at La Qinta Country Club, CA. I got a gang together from Morgan Stanley to play there once, but I was in a hip-cast. And that’s all I’m going to say about it. After that, we have the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego, CA.   

NFL:

The 100th NFL season ended last year, in Miami, in an entertaining 31-20 comeback Super Bowl victory for the Kansas City Chiefs over the San Francisco 49ers. The 2020 season began with no preseason games, with teams in their own stadiums, but with limited numbers of fans. Both, the ‘opting out’ of the season (Patriots had the most players opt out, with 8) and COVID-19 contractions, have wreaked havoc on team makeups, coaching staffs, and game results. Some games have been missing several star players, other games have been postponed. I think the NFL made a huge mistake (I know I keep saying it), just like MLB, in not playing in a bubble like the NBA and NHL. Week 17 of the irregular season has ended and we are now on to an abbreviated Playoffs this weekend.

Let’s start with the teams that didn’t make the Playoffs and the growing number of head coaches who have been fired.  Falcons fired Dan Quinn in October. Lions fired former DC of Patriots Matt Patricia. Texans fired coach and GM Bill O’Brien in October.  The Jaguars fired Doug Marrone on 1/4/21 (which is considered Black Monday in the NFL for jobs).  The Chargers fired Anthony Lynn on 1/4/21. The Jets fired Adam Gase on 1/3/21. I think this list will grow. The Rams have activated WR Cooper Kupp from reserve/COVID-19 list. Chase Young of the Redskins says he wants to face the GOAT, Tom Brady, now of the Bucs. Ravens QB Lamar Jackson says he is out to erase the narrative about his playoff struggles. Former Panthers GM Marty Hurney is meeting with Washington and considered top candidate. Urban Meyer, yes you remember the name from NCAA and NFL before, is finalizing a deal to be head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. 

Now, to the Playoffs schedule:

The Chiefs had a bye for Week 1 of the Playoffs as the No.1 AFC team. They faced the winner of the Colts vs Bills, which was the Bills. They struggled against them, but eventually won. Also in the AFC, the Steelers faced the Browns and got crushed. Worst defeat since 1976. So, then the Browns were up against the Chiefs.  Despite injuring QB Patrick Mahomes (tweaked nerve in neck), the Browns lost to the Chiefs and journeyman QB Henne.  The Titans were beaten by the Ravens, and their QB finally got that unlucky mojo off his back of losing every playoff game. The Ravens went up against the Bills and did not fare well, losing.  The Ravens have released veteran RB Mark Ingram. The Ravens also waived veteran QB Robert Griffin III, after 3 seasons. Somehow, I didn’t think I would ever write those words. The winners of those two games will face each other.  There are a lot less steps now. On the NFC side, the Packers wound up as the No.1 NFC team and so got the bye. They faced the Rams who beat the Seahawks. Although  a close game at the beginning, the Packers just overpowered the Rams. That left the Saints, who had beaten my Bears badly, and a rematch of Drew Brees, 42, and Tom Brady, 43, of the Bucs, who had ousted the Washington Football Team.  And, in a surprise Sunday night, in the first time in 6 games against the Bucs (2 this season against Brady), the Saints lost to the Bucs and the GOAT.  Next round, to decide which teams go to the Super Bowl, is the Chiefs vs the Bills and Bucs vs Packers (with another matchup of ancient gladiator QBs). The Rams five-time Pro Bowler Jon Arnett has died at age 85. 

Tennis

The 2021 tennis season kicked off with the tournaments in Abu Dhabi and here in Delray Beach, Florida. The Australian Open was postponed by two weeks due to COVID-19 pandemic. Australian Open officials have rejected Djokovic’s calls for quarantine changes. At this point, Andy Murray is OUT for the Aussie Open.  72 players are now in Isolation, after the 5th positive Covid-19 test.  Rafael has kicked off his 800th consecutive week in the ATP top 10.  Thats impressive!  

Olympics

The Summer Olympics, which were to start in July 2020, were postponed until July 2021. This is the first time ever that a Summer Olympics was held on an odd year. The start of WWII in 1939, forced the 1940 Summer Olympics to be delayed a few weeks, and then canceled. The 1944 Olympic Games were also not held.  The Summer Olympics did not begin again until London in 1948. But, they were never postponed. The Paralympics, also scheduled for 2020, have been postponed, as well, to 2021. Ironically, the Winter Olympics, which are held two years after the Summer Olympics, are still scheduled for 2022, only one year after the Summer Olympics. Frankly, I can’t remember an athlete that performed in both Summer and Winter Olympics, so I don’t think the one year shortened resting period will be a factor. Ex-Olympic champion, Sofia Bekatorou, of Greece, has spoken out about sexual abuse, shocking the country. The former 2012 London Olympics boss says that the 2021 Tokyo Olympics will likely be disrupted by COVID-19 pandemic and “unlikely to go ahead in 2021.”

NCAA Football:

In the beginning of 2020, LSU played Clemson for the College Football National Championship, and despite being down 17-7 in the 2nd quarter, came roaring back behind Heisman Trophy-winner QB Joe Burrow, and won 42-25. The NCAA announced that all Spring sports were cancelled, including NCAA Spring Football, and that all players in all sports would have another year of eligibility, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day was cancelled, the first time that has ever happened. 

2020-2021 NCAA Football season was a very strange season, with the start delayed, most teams playing with NO fans (which really took away, in my opinion, any home-field advantage that they had), and many games either cancelled or postponed (but you can’t really make a game up with a packed weekly schedule). So, consequently, the College Football Playoff Committee, after the AP Coaches and other rankers, had to determine whether a 5-1 team was as good or better than an 11-0 team, and we had weird amounts of games played for each conference and each team. There were some conferences that started later than others and some that only played teams in their OWN conference, and it was a mess. I don’t even know if this qualifies as an ‘asterisk’ season or sport. 2020-2021 NCAA College Football Playoff came down to two teams that are usually at the top (lately) anyway, No.1 Alabama and No.3 Ohio State. They played each other for the Championship, even though one had played only 7 games and the other had played 12 games. And, how did they figure out that (4-3) Oregon was a Top 25 team? Riddle me that. On New Year’s Day, No.1 Alabama crushed No.4 Notre Dame and No.3 Ohio State surprisingly crushed No.2 Clemson. Anyway, Alabama, for their 6th National title, crushed Ohio State. It was actually the 7th National Title for coach Nick Saban. Meanwhile, Tennessee fired their coach amid an investigation into recruitment violations. So here are the final standings:

1.          Alabama (13-0)

2.          Clemson (10-2)

3.          Ohio State (7-1)

4.          Notre Dame (10-2)

5.          Texas A&M (9-1)

6.          Oklahoma (9-2)

7.          Florida (8-4)

8.          Cincinnati (9-1)

9.          Georgia (8-2)

10.        Iowa State (9-3)

11.        Indiana (6-2)

12.        Coastal (11-1)

13.        UNC (8-4)

14.        Northwestern (7-2)

15.        Iowa (6-2)

16.        BYU (11-1)

17.        USC (5-1)

18.        Miami (8-3)

19.        LA-Lafayette (10-1)

20.        Texas (7-3)

21.        Oklahoma State (8-3)

22.        San Jose State (7-1)

23.        NC State (8-4)

24.        Tulsa (6-3)

25.        Oregon (4-3)

NCAA Basketball

As teams entered their week of Conference Championship Tournaments in early 2020, prior to the Committee’s decision on the 68 seeds for the National Championship (also known as March Madness), it all came to a halt due to COVID-19.  One after another, conferences cancelled their tournaments and the NCAA cancelled the National Championship, before it ever started, on 3/12. The NCAA did the same with the Women’s Basketball Tournament. 

The 2020-2021 season began in November. We are deep into it now, almost halfway through, with no or limited fans in some stadiums, removing most of the home stadium advantage. We are also seeing major impacts to the top teams from COVID-19, causing them to cancel games.  My Michigan State Spartans, cruising in the Top 6 teams with a strong start this season, have fallen off the list of the Top 25 since.  These are the latest AP Top 25 Rankings is as of 01/18/2021:

1.  Gonzaga (14-0)

2.  Baylor (12-0)

3. Villanova (8-1)

4.  Iowa (12-2)

5.  Texas (11-2)

6. Tennessee (10-1)

7.  Michigan (11-1)

8.  Houston (11-1)

9. Kansas (10-3)

10. Wisconsin (11-3)

11. Creighton (10-3)

12. Texas Tech (11-4)

13. Virginia (9-2)

14. West Virginia (9-4)

15. Ohio State (11-3)

16. Virginia Tech (11-2)

17. Minnesota (11-4)

18. Alabama (11-3)

19. Missouri (8-2)

20. Clemson (9-2)

21. Oregon (9-2)

22. Illinois (9-5)

23. Connecticut (7-2)

24. UCLA (11-2)

25. Saint Louis (7-1)

NHL:

Last season (2019) ended in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals on 6/12/19, when the St. Louis Blues beat my Bruins 4-3 in the Finals. The puck dropped on this asterisk season on 10/2/19. Then it all ended about 70 of 82 games into the regular season. On 5/28, in a very unusual move, the NHL concluded the 2019-2020 regular season and awarded my Boston Bruins with the Presidents’ Trophy (for having the best record), which is typically a curse for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for that team. The Bruins also received the William M. Jennings Trophy (both Bruins’ goalies Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak, for best goals-against avg.) and Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy (David Pastrnak for most goals, 48, tied with Alex Ovechkin). Ironically, halfway through the playoffs, Tuukka Rask suddenly announced that he was leaving the Bruins, leaving them with just their No.2 goalie. Seattle will finally get a new NHL team in 2021-2022 season, the Seattle Kraken. 

The puck dropped (again) to conclude this past season on 8/1/20. The teams played in the modified playoffs in two bubble arenas in Toronto and Edmonton, without fans. The Stanley Cup was won by the Tampa Bay Lightning (who ousted my Bruins, due to the Presidents Cup curse) over the Dallas Stars, 4 games to 2. The Finals were held in the Edmonton bubble, without fans.

The United States shocked Canada and just won the 2021 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship by a score of 2-0 in Edmonton on Tuesday! Spencer Knight (soon to be a Florida Panther) made 34 saves for his 3rd shutout of the tournament, setting US WJC career and single-tournament records. It was the first shutout by the US in the semifinal round or championship game in history! It was only the 5th championship for the US, and 4 of those titles came by wins over Canada (2004, 2010, 2017, 2021). Team USA Trevor Zegras (soon to be an Anaheim Duck) was named the tournament MVP. 

The 2021 NHL season (which normally would have started in October 2020 and wrapped around to 2021) has just started and is 5-6 games in.  The regular season is normally 82 games, but will only be 56 games this year, once again due to the pandemic. There will also be divisional realignment to limit team matchups to intra-division play and minimize team travel as much as possible, due to the pandemic. Remember, there were two Conferences with weird names for 4 Divisions of each, to get to (now) 31 teams. However, now this will be this season’s odd realignment (frankly, I thought it was more odd before):

NORTH (all Canadian)

Calgary Flames

Edmonton Oilers

Montreal Canadiens

Ottawa Senators

Toronto Maple Leafs

Vancouver Canucks

Winnipeg Jets

WEST

Anaheim Mighty Ducks

Phoenix Coyotes

Colorado Avalanche

LA Kings

Minnesota Wild

San Jose Sharks

St. Louis Blues

Las Vegas Golden Knights

CENTRAL

Carolina Hurricanes

Chicago Blackhawks

Columbus Blue Jackets

Dallas Stars

Detroit Redwings

Florida Panthers

Nashville Predators

Tampa Bay Lightning

EAST

Boston Bruins

Buffalo Sabres

New Jersey Devils

New York Islanders

New York Rangers

Philadelphia Flyers

Pittsburgh Penguins

Washington Capitals

Okay, although it’s way too early, here are your current standings: 2021 NHL Central Division leaders-Tampa Bay Lightning tied with the Predators, East Division leaders-Washington Capitals tied with Islanders and Flyers, West Division leaders-Golden Knights tied with Wild, North Division leaders-Maple Leafs.  This year there are only 4 Divisions, with only 2 Conferences. 

NBA:

Last year, the NBA season did not start until 10/22/19, 18 days later than last year. We were nearing the playoffs, when the pandemic shut the regular season down, with just a little over a month left. Late 6/4/20, the NBA reportedly approved a 22-team format to restart the season in the Summer. All games were played at the three venues at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fl, starting 7/31. The modified playoff format for this asterisk season began on 10/12. In the end, the Miami Heat lost the Championship to the LA Lakers. 

The NBA season tipped off again on 12/22/20. But, it is totally different. Fan attendance differs in every stadium, depending on different factors, including state COVID-19 guidelines. Some stadiums are forced to deal with 10% of capacity attendance. Celtics’ TD Garden allowed ZERO fans at games. The Hornets also followed suit with NO fans. Cavs can have 300 fans at games. Rockets will have reduced capacity of fans. Pelicans will have 4% capacity of fans.  Raptors will have 3,200 fans maximum. Magic will have 4,000 fans maximum.  Jazz will have only a few thousand fans. Other teams with NO fans to start the season: Bulls, Nuggets, Pistons, Warriors, Pacers, Clippers, Lakers, Heat, Bucks, Timberwolves, Knicks, Thunder, 76ers, Suns, Trail Blazers, Kings, Spurs, and Wizards.  We are more than 13 games into  the NBA 2020-2021 season now. In the Eastern Conference, the early rankings are: Bucks, Celtics, 76ers, Pacers, Nets, and in the Western Conference, we have the Lakers, Clippers, Jazz, Suns, Spurs, Trail Blazers, and Grizzlies. The Cavaliers are reportedly going to trade or waive Kevin Porter Jr. after his food-throwing locker room outburst.  Nets’ Kyrie Irving reportedly bought a house for family of George Floyd.  James Harden is no longer a Houston Rocket, and instead a Net. 

Racing:

NASCAR began the 2020 season with 4 races at Daytona, followed by 3 scheduled races, the last on 3/8/20. But, then the pandemic shut everything down, wiping out the next 7 scheduled races.  The season finally restarted at Darlington Raceway on 5/17. The race was run without fans in the stands. NASCAR is making every effort to get as many of the originally schedule races in to the abbreviated season that had been postponed. Some races will be cancelled. After 3/8/20, some races had to be postponed, some had to be cancelled, and some had to be replaced by other races. Also, NASCAR snuck in a lot more races in-between the typical Sunday races. In addition, NASCAR was the first professional sport to allow spectators back during the COVID-19 epidemic.

11/8 Phoenix, NASCAR Cup Series Championship-won by Chase Elliott. His dad, Bill Elliott, won the championship in 1988. They became the third father-son duo to win a title, joining the Petty’s (Lee and Richard) and Jarrett’s (Ned and Dale)

The 2021 NASCAR season begins in Daytona on 2/14/21. 

Formula One began with F1 Car Launch Dates for the various teams from 2/12 through 2/15 for Renault, Racing Point, McLaren, and Ferrari.  That was followed by the Pre-Season Testing schedule.  The opening of the season coincided with the COVID-19 lockdown, and the Australia Grand Prix was about to run, and FIA announced that the season would be delayed at least until the 5/3 Dutch Grand Prix.  It announced a number of race postponements. F1 will have an abbreviated 19 race season (instead of the record 22-race season planned), when it begins. The reports were that they were thinking about 7/5 as a start date, and that was good intel.  There will likely be no summer break and they anticipate that the season end date will extend beyond the original end date of 11/27-29. So, we lost the Australian GP, Bahrain GP, Vietnamese GP, Chinese GP, and Canadian GP. The season began on 7/5/20 with the Austrian GP. Lewis Hamilton won his 7th World Title.  He is to be awarded a knighthood. F1 will revert to 2pm start times in 2021. Matteo Pagliani was crowned inaugural F1 Mobile Racing Esports Champion. 

Here is the IndyCar Racing circuit (Indy cars are generally considered faster than F1 car along straight lines, mostly because their races are on oval tracks, while F1 tracks are more intricate, requiring better brakes and more aerodynamic grip than Indy cars).  IndyCar announced that the rest of the season would be postponed at least until June 14, and several races would be cancelled.Scott Dixon was the Championship winner for 2020, edging out defending champion, Josef Newgarden.

In Motorsport, Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia won the World Rally Championship, while Hyundai won the manufacturer’s title. 

Travel News:

President Trump was about to lift travel bans on visitors from much of Europe and Brazil, which has seen a huge spike in new cases of COVID-19. President Biden is blocking that travel ban change.  Boeing’s grounded B737-Max will be cleared for flying in Europe. The UK has suspended travel corridors, requiring all travelers to quarantine upon arrival. The corridor will be closed until at least 2/15/21. Eurostar Rail Service is facing financial woes due to COVID-19, as ridership has fallen 95% from where it was in March 2020. American Airlines passengers will soon be able to upload COVID-19 test results on international flights (starting 1/23/21). Major airlines have temporarily banned guns in checked baggage leading up to Inauguration in Washington, DC. 

Health News: 

As of today (1/19/21), there have been 95,725,830 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the world (24,094,696 in the US) and 2,045,389 deaths in the world (399,264 in the US). 

COVID-19 deaths are rising in 30 US States. 

Nigeria has asked Australia for 10 million COVID-19 vaccine doses. In Germany’s mass vaccination campaign, 8 care home workers were accidentally given five times the normal dose. An international panel has accused China and WHO of reacting too slowly to news for the first COVID-19 cases, which were detected in December 2019, and fumbling the subsequent response. An international committee, with help from China, is hunting the Wuhan area for COVID-19’s origin (patient #1) and the lab leak theory. It has not been easy, as its a tangled mess of conspiracy and politics is complicating the investigation.  

Milan, Italy has banned smoking outdoors. Zhang Zan, the journalist who reported on China’s first COVID-19 outbreak, has received a 4-year sentence for her Wuhan reports from the government.  President Biden has picked a transgender woman as Assistant Health Secretary. 

Animal News:

A rare white North Island Brown Kiwi, Manukura, who hatched in 2011, and inspired a book and toys, has died. Don’t forget, Inauguration Day also brings Indogeration Day for Major, President Biden’s shepherd mix dog. A pet cat feared dead in a 2018 California mudslide has been found alive. Some jerk etched “TRUMP” into the side of a Florida manatee. The FDA warns that some pet foods have been recalled, after 28 dogs died. One of the most elusive animals found in Yellowstone National Park, the wolverine, has been caught on camera for the first time. A new whale-watching museum is opening in Norway and it’s shaped like a whale fin. Superstitious Brits are worried about a raven that disappeared from the Tower of London. 

Entertainment News:

Political commentator, Olivier Duhamel, has resigned as head of the National Foundation of Political Sciences, which oversees the prestigious Sciences Po university. Duhamel has been accused of sexual assault in France, which triggered an 80,000 person French MeToo campaign on Twitter. An Amazon Prime drama is sparking controversy in India. Hilaria Baldwin is denying that she faked her Spanish heritage, and her husband, Alec Baldwin maintains that she was born in Boston and grew up in Connecticut. Alec Baldwin also formally quit Twitter. Dr. Dre is back home after being hospitalized in Los Angeles. BATWOMAN has gotten a new lead actress, but Season 2 looks like the same bad show. Selena Gomez dropped a Spanish single “De Una Vez”. Producer and convicted murderer Phil Spector has died. Post Malone is donating 10,000 of his sold out Crocs to frontline workers. Anne Hathaway revealed that we have been calling her the wrong name. Tiger is a new series about Tiger Woods on HBO.  Its getting very good reviews. AVENGERS: ENDGAME nearly included post credits scene to set up WandaVision, which has been on some strange trailers recently. Sort of a cyborg man. I am going through Rotten Tomatoes TOP 157 Netflix series to try to binge watch more of the 100% rated ones (there are 20 at the top of the list). I think Queen’s Gambit or The Crown were the only top-rated ones I saw. Then they have a separate list for the 58 TOP series on Amazon Prime. By my count, i’ve binge watched 13 Netflix series completely with this pandemic. I’m still waiting for Mandalorian and the new Star Wars series to come out on Disney+.  

Technology & Space News:

Kenya’s digital tax is expected to negatively affect online business. The Kenya Revenue Authority is after ‘social media influencers.’  Qualcomm’s new chip will boost gaming on Motorola and Xiaomi phones. Parler website is back online after Amazon brought it offline. Microsoft’s Washington campus will become a COVID-19 vaccination site. The Trump administration reportedly hit Huawei’s US suppliers with last-minute restrictions. Microsoft is backing GM’s Cruise Automation self-driving car venture. NextMind’s dev kit shows the possibility of a player controlling virtual reality with their mind. SpaceX Starship SN9 relo9aded its Raptors ahead of high-altitude flight, boldly following SN8, which sacrificed itself. Chevy is teaming up with Walt Disney World to reveal both the brand-new Bolt EUV and refreshed Bolt EV hatchback. I saw another Chevy C8 Corvette, and aside from the 1963 Corvette, I think it is the best one they’ve ever built! It looks more like a Ferrari than the current Ferrari looks. 

US News:

President Trump became the first US President to be impeached twice, after the House of Representatives charged him with incitement of insurrection, regarding the 40,000 citizens storming the US Capitol. He is only the 3rd US President to be impeached (along with Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton). President Nixon resigned before he could be impeached. Some media reports suggested that it was President Trump’s inflammatory Tweets, following the loss of 2 Senatorial seats in Georgia runoffs, that incited the massive fatal attack on the US Capitol. Trump later wrote that he condemned the attack. Twitter has permanently banned President Trump from the social media site that the President used to reach at least 73 million Americans directly, and bypass the media and his own speech writers. As is typical in the final days of a Presidency, President Trump is expected to pardon dozens of prisoners on his final day. The Trump supporter who was seen on camera rifling through Nancy Pelosi’s drawer has been arrested for ‘data theft’. The FBI is now vetting US Capitol guards and 25,000 National Guardsman in Washington, DC for the upcoming inauguration, as there is now concern of potential extreme elements within US law enforcement (something that Germany discovered when it began policing its own police). The US National Guard at the US Capitol has been authorized to use “lethal force”. Total US Unemployment is currently 10,735,000 and the Unemployment Rate is 6.7%. The Smithsonian is collecting artifacts from the Capitol riots. 

Bankruptcy:

The National Rifle Association has filed for bankruptcy. Even though the numbers I shared last Commentary showed a surprisingly low number of personal bankruptcies (Chapter 7 and 13), those figures were misleading, as they only captured through June 2020, and PPP, Stimulus Checks, extended Unemployment Benefits, and foreclosure/eviction moratorium (and mortgage forbearances) likely pushed off personal bankruptcies to later in 2020 or to 2021. What the data did not show was Chapter 11 bankruptcies, which are typically large individuals and companies. Here is the growing list of corporate bankruptcies (in order of filing):

Papyrus

Bar Louie

Krystal

Pier 1 Imports

Modell’s Sporting Goods

True Religion

J. Crew Group 

Neiman Marcus

JC Penney

Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes

Tuesday Morning

GNC

Chuck E. Cheese

NPC International (Pizza Hut, Wendy’s)

Brooks Brothers

Sur La Table

Muji USA

Lucky Brand

RTW Retailwinds (New York & Co.)

Ascena Retail Group (Ann Taylor, LOFT, Lane Bryant)

California Pizza Kitchen

Lord & Taylor

Tailored Brands (Men’s Wearhouse, Jos. A Bank)

Stein Mart

Century 21

Sizzler USA

Ruby Tuesday

Friendly’s

Guitar Center

Francesca’s

International News:

Yoweri Museveni has been re-elected as President of Uganda. Dutch PM Mark Rutte and his cabinet resigned as a result of a child welfare fraud scandal.  The Italian PM is facing a crucial vote to stay in power. The largest Mafia trial in decades has begun in Italy. A Thai woman who has been insulting the monarchy for years in posts on social media has received the harshest penalty for such behavior, receiving a 43-year prison sentence. An Egyptian woman has been arrested for baking “indecent” cakes, sum topped with genitalia. A stolen 500-year-old painting has been found in a cupboard and has been returned to the Italian museum, whose staff was actually unaware that it was missing. Libya talks have centered around steps for an interim government. The UN says that an Islamist insurgency in northern Mozambique has created a humanitarian crisis. The World Food Program said the cost of food had soared and that the violence had limited access to water, sanitation, and education. About 570,000 people have been forced to flee their homes. Hundreds of people have been killed by the jihadists, since 2017. Loujain al-Hathloul, 31, of Saudi Arabia, who had gained international attention for her campaign to win the right for Saudi women to drive, has been jailed, despite global outcry. 

Florida:

For the first time since 3/15/20, nearly the start of the pandemic, I successfully sang my first singing gig at Zuccarellis Ristorante in West Palm Beach 12/18 6:30-10:00pm. I did half Elvis and half Christmas songs in a 2-hour gig that became 3 ½-hours. I’ve been asked to return monthly and perform there. Publix pharmacies here in Florida will have the COVID-19 vaccine now, but only for 65-year-olds and older, healthcare personnel, and residents and staff of longterm care facilities. 

Jokes and Such:

If you all keep sending me dirty jokes that I can’t publish in the Repo Commentary, I’m going to have to remove this section.  Again. 

Repo Commentary-01/07/21

It is Day 302 (on 01/07) since the official start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the day that the WHO declared it a ‘pandemic’ (3/11/20). Of course, that depends on which conspiracy theories to which you ascribe.

I hope that you and your families are staying healthy and safe. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its literal mortal, economic, and mental toll on millions of people around the world. For many, unemployment benefits could end soon.

In the last installment of the Repo Commentary (12/03), I wrote about my latest project. It was kind of a work of love, sort of like a 122,000-word book that I always wanted to write, about my 38 years in the Repo & Securities Lending industry.  In conjunction with Pierpoint Securities Finance Academy and sister company, Fintuition, I have compiled an 11-week state-of-the-art virtual training/education course on the Fundamentals of Repo. You can learn more about the course here: https://www.pierpoint.info/courses/the-fundamentals-of-repo. It is now available. I think you will find it a very informative, complete, and an entertaining version of distanced learning, with my usual humor and my experience sprinkled across some 149 PowerPoint presentations within a new state-of-the-art Teachable system, with hours of my voiceovers, as well as 10 videos, and an exam. The course has international accreditation from Chartered Institute For Securities and Investment (CISI).  I suspect many companies have already budgeted to subscribe and relieve themselves of the burden of training their people in Repo, and leave it to one of the OG Repo dinosaurs. Lol. But, first, check out my friend, Professor Moorah Choudhry’s, FREE 30-minute Primer on Repo (at the same address), which introduces my course. 

So, I am far from retired from the Securities Finance industry.  I am also consulting with an electronic trading platform, and making headway on providing a large electronic solution for several markets.  Kidwell Consultants, LLC is also available FOR HIRE as a consultant. So, if you need my Securities Financing expertise or access to my vast network of about 9000 clients, call my mobile (646-753-1300), email (jeffkidwell82@gmail.com), or hit me up on LinkedIn.  

My Repo Commentary is posted FREE (it’s actually always been free) on my website:  www.repocommentary.com. It also pops up on LinkedIn, the Global Investors Group (ISF Magazine) website, and on CentralBanks.com as an op-ed. I am interested in entertaining you and taking your mind off the pressures you are under. 

Since its inception in 1982, the Repo Commentary does not represent the views of any of my former firms and reflects only my opinion and includes only publicly available information.  I make a strong effort to attribute any quotes or thoughts that are not my own, I do not make any marketing spiels, and I really am more interested (70-80%) in entertaining you than boring (20-30%) you with too much market info. Feel free, as always, to send me information or pictures, to make it better! 

I hope everyone had good holidays and a Happy New Year!!! I know that you will all see this on 01/07/21, which is the day before Elvis Presley’s birthday, so I wanted to wish the King of Rock n’ Roll an early Happy Birthday on 1/8. He would be 86-years-old. 

Holidays or Events (01/06):

  • Apple Tree Day
  • Bean Day
  • Cuddle Up Day
  • Epiphany (Three Kings Day)
  • National Take A Poet to 
  • Lunch Day
  • National Shortbread Day
  • National Smith Day
  • National Take Down the Christmas Tree Day
  • National Technology Day
  • World Day for War Orphans
  • Armed Forces Day in Iraq
  • Befana Day in Italy
  • Christmas (Armenian Apostolic Church)
  • Christmas Eve (Russia)
  • Christmas Eve (Ukraine)
  • Christmas Eve (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
  • Christmas Eve (North Macedonia)
  • Little Christmas (Ireland)
  • Prettandinn (Iceland)
  • Pathet Lao Day (Laos)

Some Famous People Born on (01/06):

  • 1367-Richard II of England
  • 1412-Joan of Arc, French martyr and saint
  • 1878-Carl Sandburg, American poet and historian
  • 1900-Maria of Yugoslavia, Queen of Yugoslavia 1922-1934
  • 1910-Kid Chocolate, Cuban boxer
  • 1934-Sylvia Sims, English actress
  • 1937-Lou Holtz, American football player, coach, sportscaster
  • 1944-Bonnie Franklin, American actress and singer
  • 1951-Don Gullett, American baseball player and coach
  • 1957-Nancy Lopez, American golfer and sportscaster
  • 1960-Paul Azinger, American golfer and sportscaster
  • 1960-Howie Long, American football player and sportscaster
  • 1970-Gabrielle Reece, American volleyball player, sportscaster, actress

Daily Weird Facts:

 Humans have caused 322 animal extinctions over the past 500 years.

Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:

“A day without sunshine is like, you know, night.”—Steve Martin 

Currency and Commodity Markets:

Oil prices closed at:

$74.34/barrel on 10/5/18 

$47.66/barrel on 12/23 

$48.63 on 01/07/19 

$52.31/barrel on 01/16 

$55.26/barrel on 2/3 

$55.41/barrel on 2/26

$73.77/barrel on 4/29

$63.28/barrel on 5/17

$54.07/barrel on 6/18

$55.96/barrel on 7/24

$58.31/barrel on 9/10

$53.50/barrel on 10/2

$59.10/barrel on 12/8

$58.81/barrel on 1/17/20

$54.39/barrel on 2/7

$35.92/barrel on 3/11

$27.15/barrel on 3/18

$29.90/barrel on 3/23

$27.43/barrel on 3/27

$24.90/barrel on 4/01

$31.80/barrel on 4/12

$28.31/barrel on 4/17

$20.03/barrel on 4/27

$26.78/barrel on 5/04

$30.39/barrel on 5/09 

$35.69/barrel on 5/20

$39.78/barrel on 6/04

$43.37/barrel on 7/27

$43.17/barrel on 11/9

$45.13/barrel on 11/30

$50.73/barrel on 12/15

$50.70/barrel on 01/04

Oil prices have rallied back to pre-COVID-19 prices. The price of gasoline at my West Palm Beach station has risen 10 cents higher in the past 2 weeks, at $2.19/gallon.

One USD versus the Yen was trading at (these are all around Repo Commentary dates):

112.20 on 12/24 

108.60 on 01/07 

109.07 on 01/16 

103.18 on 02/03 

104.86 on 2/25

103.86 on 5/17

102.59 on 6/18

102.43 on 7/24

101.72 on 9/10

102.16 on 10/02

102.96 on 12/06

104.30 on 01/17/20

104.80 on 02/07/20

99.23 on 03/11/20

101.67 on 03/18/20

104.77 on 03/24/20

102.22 on 04/13/20

102.14 on 04/19/20

101.57 on 04/27/20

106.82 on 05/04/20

100.80 on 05/10/20

102.04 on 05/20/20

103.32 on 06/04/20

100.05 on 07/27/20 

105.26 on 11/10/20

104.38 on 11/30/20

103.55 on 12/16/20

103.15 on 01/04/21

One Euro was trading on:

12/24 at $1.1426 

01/07 at $1.1478 

01/16 at $1.1396 

02/03 at $1.2047

02/25 at $1.1955

05/17 at $1.1761

06/18 at $1.1825

07/24 at $1.1740

09/10 at $1.1623

10/02 at $1.1504

12/06 at $1.1688

01/17 at $1.1721

02/07 at $1.1543

03/11 at $1.1937

03/18 at $1.1575

03/24 at $1.1400

04/13 at $1.1523

04/19 at $1.1394

04/27 at $1.1407

05/04 at $1.0903

05/10 at $1.1402

05/20 at $1.1522

06/04 at $1.1795

07/27 at $1.2314

11/10 at $1.1821

11/30 at $1.1925

12/16 at $1.2196

01/04 at $1.2246

One British Pound was trading on:

12/24 at $1.2655 

01/07 at $1.2770 

01/16 at $1.2880 

02/03 at $1.3758

02/25 at $1.3728

05/17 at $1.3427

06/18 at $1.3157

07/24 at $1.3070

09/10 at $1.2959

10/02 at $1.2882

12/06 at $1.3819

01/17 at $1.3753

02/07 at $1.3574

03/11 at $1.354

03/18 at $1.2665

03/24 at $1.2231

04/13 at $1.3143

04/19 at $1.3058

04/27 at $1.3052

05/04 at $1.2435

05/10 at $1.3005

05/20 at $1.2844

06/04 at $1.3136

07/27 at $1.3458

11/10 at $1.3255

11/30 at $1.3319 

12/16 at $1.3494

01/04 at $1.3571

One USD versus the CAD at:

1.3442 on 12/24 

1.3297 on 01/07 

1.3255 on 01/16 

1.2492 on 2/03

1.2492 on 2/25

1.2800 on 5/17

1.2740 on 6/18

1.2480 on 7/24

1.2520 on 9/10

1.2560 on 10/02

1.2530 on 12/06

1.2390 on 01/17
1.2640 on 02/07

1.3020 on 03/11 

1.3540 on 03/18

1.3690 on 03/24

1.3250 on 04/13

1.3390 on 04/19

1.3350 on 04/27

1.4090 on 05/04

1.3250 on 05/10

1.3250 on 05/20

1.2850 on 06/04

1.2730 on 07/27

1.3014 on 11/10

1.3000 on 11/30 

1.2752 on 12/16

1.2787 on 01/04

On 10/02/19, Gold closed at $1498.70/ounce. On 3/11/20 (one day after ‘pandemic’ declared), it closed at $1,641/ounce. On 07/27/20, Gold reached a record $1,944.71/ounce, as investors continued to pour money into the safe-haven. But, as of 11/10/20, it was trading at $1,880.30, having backed off the highs. It has continued to back off those highs, closed on 11/30/20 at 1,774.00. On 12/16/20, gold was back up to $1,858.20. On 01/04/21, it was up to $1,948.00.

Bitcoin was trading at (around Repo Commentary Dates):

$8,185.21 on 7/25 

$6,350 on 10/5

$3,774.97 on 12/24/18

$3,7774.97 on 01/07 

$3,598.90 on 01/16 

$3,421.10 on 02/06 

$3,826.44 on 02/26

$8,100.00 on 05/16

$7,215.79 on 05/17

$9,088.59 on 06/18

$11,919.30 on 06/25

$9,790.37 on 07/24

$10,183.90 on 09/10

$8,235.46 on 10/02

$7,470.41 on 12/06
$8,876.87 on 01/17/20

$9,793.18 on 02/07/20

$7,871.60 on 03/11/20

$5,216.64 on 03/18/20

$6,728.03 on 03/24/20

$6,646.60 on 03/27/20

$6,443.44 on 03/31/20

$6,908.13 on 04/12/20

$7,128.45 on 04/19/20

$7,748.29 on 04/27/20

$8,775.36 on 05/04/20

$8,771.73 on 05/10/20

$9,525.54 on 05/20/20

$9,794.46 on 06/04/20

$10,849.00 on 07/27/20

$15,160.90 on 11/10/20

$19,411.50 on 11/30/20

$20,665.10 on 12/16/20

$31,592.20 on 01/04/21

After rebounding in 2019 dramatically since the beginning of the year, although certainly not to its $19,000 high, Bitcoin hit a wall at the beginning of the Summer of 2019, then rallied during the Summer, and tumbled again in Q4, and had rallied in early in 2020.  It then gave up all of those 2020 gains with the COVID-19 contagion. It rallied sharply in the last few weeks before the ‘halving event’ on 5/12/20, its 3rd halving event.  On 3/13/20, it had cratered at $3,867.  But, Bitcoin appears to be replacing Gold as the safe-haven of choice for some investors from the weakening US dollar and risk of rising inflation. There is also growing interest from institutional investors. After sneaking up now again to all-time record territory above $19,000, it broke through to a new record, where it is now. Since I last reported two weeks ago, when it was 6-7 times higher than the low from March, it has more than doubled again (now nearly 10 times higher than that March low)! JPMorgan now says that Bitcoin could rally to $100,000! One market follower said on Twitter: “it’s not a rally. It’s not a bubble. It’s a chain reaction spreading like a fire in cyberspace.”

Brexit:

Britons have been blocked from entry to EU nations as ports faced the first day under new rules, on Monday.  EU firms also refused UK deliveries over the Brexit tax changes.  The long Brexit process has come to a conclusion. Northern Ireland’s first minister is seeing a “gateway of opportunity” in the trade deal between UK and EU, which removes “some of the difficulties with the NI Protocol.” Gibraltar has received a UK-Spain deal to keep the border open. Channel Tunnel operator Getlink says there will not be any congestion caused when the new trading rules go into effect, referring to the Dover-Calais route. The UK technically left the EU on 1/31/20, but the subsequent deal between the two came into force 1/1/21. Most UK drivers will still be able to use their normal driving license while driving in EU countries. However, there are some exceptions, such as those with paper licenses and licenses issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man. Those people will need and additional International Driving Permit (IDP), which can be purchased at Post Offices. There are two types of IDPs, depending on which countries you will be driving in. As for car insurance, you will need to provide proof that you vehicle is insured while driving in Europe, which is in the form of a green card, which needs to be procured from your insurer before you travel to Europe. There are varying rules on whether you need a GB sticker on your license plate or not, depending on the plate you have and which country you are travelling to. 

Global Financial News:

Manufacturers in the Eurozone ended 2020 on a high note, with activity increasing at the fastest rate since mid-2018, according to IHS Markit.  Germany was the main driving force, since factories in that country have mostly remained open during COVID-19 related lockdowns. The FTSE 100 index of shares in London had a nice first full day of trading in 2021, up 1.73%.  The NYSE may still delist 3 Chinese telecommunications firms, reportedly, after withdrawing the threat earlier. US Treasury Secretary Mnuchin reportedly contacted NYSE’s president to say he disagrees with the decision to NOT delist them. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has determined that Wells Fargo has improved its anti-money laundering compliance program sufficiently, and has released it from a 2015 consent order, according to Wells Fargo. However, Wells Fargo remains under a 2018 consent order from the OCC regarding sales of mortgage and insurance products. 

US Market News:

At levels above the magic 30,000, the Dow is now well above its pre-pandemic peak of 29,569. 

Here are the latest DJIA closes, just to demonstrate the massive volatility:

12/15/20   30,199.31

12/01/20   29,823.92

11/09/20   29,157.97

07/24/20   26,469.89

07/23/20 26,652.33

07/22/20   27,005.84

07/21/20   26,840.40

07/20/20   26,680.87

07/17/20   26,671.95

07/16/20   26,734.71

07/15/20   26,870.10

07/14/20   26,642.59

07/13/20   26,085.80

07/10/20   26,075.30

07/09/20   25,706.09

07/08/20   26,067.28

07/07/20   25,890.18

07/06/20   26,287.03

07/02/20   25,827.36

07/01/20   25,734.97

06/30/20   25,812.88

06/29/20   25,595.80

06/26/20   25,015.55

06/25/20   25,745.60

06/24/20   25,445.94

06/23/20   26,156.10

06/22/20   26,024.96

06/19/20   25,871.46

06/18/20   26,080.10

06/17/20   26,119.61

06/16/20   26,289.98

06/15/20   25,763.16

06/12/20   25,605.54

06/11/20   25,128.17

06/10/20   26,989.99

06/09/20   27,272.30

06/08/20   27,572.44

06/05/20   27,110.98

6/04/20     26,281.82

6/03/20     26,269.89

6/02/20     25,742.65

6/01/20     25,475.02

5/29/20     25,383.11

5/28/20     25,400.64

5/27/20     25,548.27

5/26/20     24,995.11

5/22/20     24,465.16

5/21/20     24,474.12

5/20/20     24,575.90

5/19/20     24,206.86

5/18/20     24,597.37

5/15/20     23,685.42

5/14/20     23,625.34

5/13/20     23,247.57

5/12/20     23,764.76

5/11/20     24,221.99

5/08/20     24,331.32

5/07/20     23,875.89

5/06/20     23,664.64

5/05/20     23,883.09

5/04/20     23,749.76

5/01/20     23,723.69

4/30/20     24,345.72

4/29/20     24,633.86

4/28/20     24,101.55

4/27/20     24,133.78

4/24/20     23,775.27

4/23/20     23,515.26

4/22/20     23,475.82

4/21/20     23,018.88

4/20/20     23,650.44

4/17/20     24,242.49

4/16/20     23,537.68

4/15/20     23,504.35

4/14/20     23,949.76

4/13/20     23,390.77

4/10/20     market closed

4/09/20    23,719.37

4/08/20     23,433.57

4/07/20     22,653.86

4/06/20     22,679.99

4/03/20     21,052.53

4/02/20     21,413.44

4/01/20     20,943.51

3/31/20     21,917.16

3/30/20     22,327.48

3/27/20     21,636.78

3/26/20     22,552.17

3/25/20     21,200.55
3/24/20     20,704.91 

3/23/20    18,591.93

3/20/20    19,173.98

3/19/20    20,087.19

3/18/20     19,898.92 

3/17/20     21,237.38

3/16/20     20,188.52

3/13/20     23,185.62

3/12/20     21,200.62 

3/11/20     23,553.22

3/10/20     25,018.16

3/09/20     23,851.02

3/06/20     25,864.78

3/05/20     26,121.28

3/04/20     27,090.86

3/03/20     25,917.41

3/02/20     26,703.32

2/28/20     25,409.36

2/27/20     25,766.64

2/26/20     26,957.59

2/25/20     27,081.36

2/24/20     27,960.80

2/21/20     28,992.41

2/20/20     29,219.98

2/19/20     29,348.03

2/12/20     29,551.42 record high

S&P 500 has closed on:

10/5/18 at 2,885.58 

12/26/18 at 2,467.70 

01/07/19 at 2,549.69 

01/16/19 at 2,616.10 

02/06/19 at 2,706.53 

02/25/19 at 2,799.34

05/16/19 at 2,876.32

06/18/19 at 2,917.75

07/24/19 at 3,019.56 

09/10/19 at 2,969.04

10/02/19 at 2,906.94 

12/06/19 at 3,145.91

01/17/20 at 3,329.62

02/07/20 at 3,335.27 down 10.51 from new all-time high

03/12/20 at 2,480.64

03/17/20 at 2,529.19

03/23/20 at 2,237.40

03/26/20 at 2,630.07

03/31/20 at 2,584.59

04/09/20 at 2,789.82

04/17/20 at 2,830.88

04/24/20 at 2,854.65

05/08/20 at 2,929.80

05/19/20 at 2,922.35

06/03/20 at 3,130.94

07/24/20 at 3,215.63

11/09/20 at 3,550.50

12/01/20 at 3,662.45

12/15/20 at 3,647.49

S&P has regained everything it lost since 3/11 pandemic announcement, and more, breaking above the high set in early September 2020.  It set a record on 12/8 of 3,702.25, but has backed a little off of that since.  

Nasdaq proposed rules that would require firms listed on the exchange to name 2 or more diverse members to the board, or explain why they haven’t done so. On Tuesday, Nasdaq achieved a record high of 12,595.06. Nasdaq closed on:

10/5/18 at 7,788.45

12/26/18 at 6,554.36

01/07/19 at 6,823.47

01/16/19 at 7,034.70

02/06/19 at 7,263.87

02/25/19 at 7,561.87

05/16/19 at 7,898.05

06/18/19 at 7,953.68

07/24/19 at 8,321.50 

09/10/19 at 8,043.58

10/02/19 at 7,809.22 

12/06/19 at 8,656.07

01/17/20 at 9,388.95

02/07/20 at 9,555.96 down 16.19 from new all-time high 

03/12/20 at 7,201.80

03/17/20 at 7,334.78

03/23/20 at 6,860.67

03/26/20 at 7,797.54

03/31/20 at 7,700.10

04/09/20 at 8,153.58

04/17/20 at 8,650.14

04/27/20 at 8,730.16

05/08/20 at 9,121.32

05/19/20 at 9,185.10

06/04/20 at 9,615.81 don’t look now, but we have set a new record high, above the previous high of 2/07/20!

07/24/20 at 10,363.18 we continue in uncharted territory

11/09/20 at 11,713.78 just off the record high on 11/05/20

12/01/20 at 12,355.11 

12/15/20 at 12.505.06

The US Treasury curve has steepened even more Wednesday, on the heels of news that Democrats had won the first of two Senate runoffs, which immediately raised 10year Treasury yields over the 1.00% mark, for the first time since March 2020. 

2 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 2.88%

12/18/18 at 2.65%

01/07/19 at 2.53%

01/16/19 at 2.55%

02/06/19 at 2.52%

02/22/19 at 2.48%

05/16/19 at 2.20%

06/18/19 at 1.86%

07/24/19 at 1.83%

09/09/19 at 1.58%

10/01/19 at 1.56%

12/06/19 at 1.61%

01/17/20 at 1.58%

02/06/20 at 1.44%

03/11/20 at 0.50%

03/17/20 at 0.47%

03/23/20 at 0.28% wow!

03/26/20 at 0.30%

03/31/20 at 0.23%

04/09/20 at 0.23%

04/17/20 at 0.20% 

04/27/20 at 0.24%

05/10/20 at 0.16% historic low

05/19/20 at 0.17%

06/03/20 at 0.19%

07/24/20 at 0.14% new historic low

11/09/20 at 0.17%

12/01/20 at 0.17%

12/15/20 at 0.11% wow really low!

3 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 2.99%

12/18/18 at 2.64%

01/07/19 at 2.47% (inverted to 2years)

01/16/19 at 2.53%

02/06/19 at 2.50%

02/22/19 at 2.46%

05/16/19 at 2.15%

06/18/19 at 1.80%

07/24/19 at 1.79%

09/09/19 at 1.52%

10/01/19 at 1.51%

12/06/19 at 1.64%

01/17/20 at 1.58%

02/06/20 at 1.43%

03/11/20 at 0.58%

03/17/20 at 0.54%

03/23/20 at 0.31% wow!

03/26/20 at 0.36%

03/31/20 at 0.29%

04/09/20 at 0.29%

04/17/20 at 0.26%

04/27/20 at 0.29%

05/10/20 at 0.21%

05/19/20 at 0.22%

06/03/20 at 0.26%

07/24/20 at 0.17% wow!

11/09/20 at 0.25%

12/01/20 at 0.22%

12/15/20 at 0.18% wow!

5 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.07%

12/18/18 at 2.65%

01/07/19 at 2.49%

01/16/19 at 2.54%

02/06/19 at 2.51%

02/22/19 at 2.47%

05/16/19 at 2.18%

06/18/19 at 1.83%

07/24/19 at 1.82%

09/09/19 at 1.49%

10/01/19 at 1.51%

12/06/19 at 1.67%

01/17/20 at 1.63%

02/07/20 at 1.45%

03/11/20 at 0.66%

03/17/20 at 0.56%

03/23/20 at 0.38% 

03/26/20 at 0.51%

03/31/20 at 0.37%

04/09/20 at 0.41%

04/17/20 at 0.36%

04/27/20 at 0.41%

05/10/20 at 0.33%

05/19/20 at 0.35%

06/03/20 at 0.38%

07/24/20 at 0.27% wow!

11/09/20 at 0.44%

12/01/20 at 0.42%

12/15/20 at 0.37%

7 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.18%

12/18/18 at 2.74%

01/07/19 at 2.60%

01/16/19 at 2.62%

02/06/19 at 2.59%

02/22/19 at 2.55%

05/16/19 at 2.28%

06/18/19 at 1.93%

07/24/19 at 1.93%

09/09/19 at 1.57%

10/01/19 at 1.59%

12/06/19 at 1.78%

01/17/20 at 1.74%

02/06/20 at 1.56%

03/11/20 at 0.78%

03/17/20 at 0.91%

03/23/20 at 0.63% 

03/26/20 at 0.72%

03/31/20 at 0.55%

04/09/20 at 0.60%

04/17/20 at 0.53%

04/27/20 at 0.56%

05/10/20 at 0.53%

05/19/20 at 0.54%

06/03/20 at 0.59%

07/24/20 at 0.44%

11/09/20 at 0.70% back to near pre-COVID level

12/01/20 at 0.68%

12/15/20 at 0.64%

10 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.23%

12/18/18 at 2.82%

01/07/19 at 2.70%

01/16/19 at 2.73%

02/06/19 at 2.70%

02/22/19 at 2.65%

05/16/19 at 2.40%

06/18/19 at 2.06%

07/24/19 at 2.05%

09/09/19 at 1.83%

10/01/19 at 1.65% dramatic drop in one month!

12/06/19 at 1.84% dramatic rise in two months!

01/17/20 at 1.84%

02/06/20 at 1.65% and back down again!

03/11/20 at 0.82%

03/17/20 at 1.02% and back up again

03/23/20 at 0.76% and back down again

03/26/20 at 0.83%

03/31/20 at 0.70%

04/09/20 at 0.73%

04/17/20 at 0.65%

04/27/20 at 0.67%

05/10/20 at 0.69%

05/19/20 at 0.70%

06/03/20 at 0.77%

07/24/20 at 0.59%

11/09/20 at 0.96% back to pre-COVID level

12/01/20 at 0.92%

12/15/20 at 0.92%

30 YEAR BONDS closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.40%

12/18/18 at 3.07%

01/07/19 at 2.99%

01/16/19 at 3.07%

02/06/19 at 3.03%
02/22/19 at 3.02%

05/16/19 at 2.84%

06/18/19 at 2.55%

07/24/19 at 2.58%

09/10/19 at 2.11%

10/01/19 at 2.11%

12/06/19 at 2.29%

01/17/20 at 2.29%

02/06/20 at 2.11%

03/11/20 at 1.30%

03/17/20 at 1.63% way up!

03/23/20 at 1.33% back down

03/26/20 at 1.42%

03/31/20 at 1.35%

04/09/20 at 1.35%

04/17/20 at 1.27%

04/27/20 at 1.29%

05/10/20 at 1.39%

05/19/20 at 1.43%

06/03/20 at 1.56%

07/24/20 at 1.23%

11/09/20 at 1.73% back to pre-COVID level

12/01/20 at 1.66%

12/15/20 at 1.65%

Housing News:

Well, shares of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac plunged Tuesday on the announcement by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that he’s all but ruled out letting them exit US control before he steps down, and become privatized. His decision actually prevents a major policy change that could have risked disrupting the $10 trillion mortgage market. US lenders are pressing lawmakers to extend an accounting waiver that helps them offer more forbearance measure to their customers beyond the 12/31 deadline. 

Repo/Securities Financing News:                              

Okay, I won’t run another ad for it, since I ran it at the top of this Repo Commentary.  Please just take a look at: https://www.pierpoint.info/courses/the-fundamentals-of-repo

My friend, Scott Skyrm, points out that the danger in monetary policy in the US of ZIRP is that the target federal funds rate or repo rates could go NEGATIVE. Now, of course, we are chatting about General Collateral Repo rates, not Specials rates, which have many times traded at negative rates. Specials are specific CUSIPS in certain types of securities that have a completely different risk dynamic and supply/demand characteristics, both from the Primary and Secondary outright markets, along with the Repo Market and Securities Lending market. You can tell, I just wrote a Lesson all about this. Anyway, back in July 2013, as Scott points out, GC Repo Rates (US Treasuries) hit .05%, very close to ZERO, and the Fed began its RRP Program (very similar to my former Direct Repo product, disintermediating the primary dealers and going to their main cash providers). There are a number of reasons why Negative rates would not be good in the US or at least would be very disruptive.  As Scott points out, the Fed has a couple of options to head this off at the pass:

  • Interest on Excess Reserves-the Fed could raise the IOER rate, which would incent banks to move reserves to the Fed and away from Repo, potentially raising repo rates.
  • RRP-the Fed has the ability to raise the Repo rate on this program, even above market repo rates, incenting those cash providers to put their cash with the Fed, rather than other collateral providers, potentially raising repo rates. 

Well, we will find, out what the Fed intends to do today, after the second day of the current FOMC meeting.

In case you have been in a coma or are new to the Securities Financing market, this is broadly a summary of what has happened since the Financial Crisis.  

  • Issuance of US Treasuries was about $10 trillion.
  • The regulators, particularly the Federal Reserve, instituted emergency liquidity programs for each of the different sectors of the money market (CP, Corporate Bonds, Broker/Dealers, GSEs, etc.).  They eventually unwound those many programs.
  • They opened up for a brief time the Discount Window to more participants and without the previous stigma attached, for collateral providers to access cash.
  • They put FNMA and FHLMC into conservatorship. Now, they are trying to privatize them. 
  • They began easing Monetary Policy massively for years.
  • They began Quantitative Easing and built up the Fed’s balance sheet to $4.5 trillion. They added to it by buying more securities every month from the paydowns on their MBS portfolio.
  • They propped up some of the 47 primary broker/dealers, allowed some to fail, and helped others to consolidate/merge. There are now 22 primary dealers.
  • The Repo Market shrunk in the US from about $7 trillion to $3 trillion, before recent increase to about $3.8 trillion (the Fed argues it is $4 trillion now).
  • Regulators instituted mountains of new reforms, especially the 310 new rules of Dodd-Frank, globally to decrease the likelihood of systemic risk in the financial system and to force, particularly the broker/dealers and GSIB banks to hold more capital/reserves for liquidity.
  • The market began looking for alternatives to financing through the fewer and crimped broker/dealers via CCPs, peer-to-peer financing, Sponsored Repo, and electronic trading platforms (some of which I initiated).
  • The Fed began its much hailed RRP program, kind of like a P2P repo, which added over 300 cash providers from the Repo market to finance the Fed’s balance sheet and provide ‘liquidity’ for those cash providers. Of course, that didn’t help the Primary Dealers, who were using those cash providers to finance their own balance sheets. 
  • The Fed stopped QE and began reducing their balance sheet down to $2.5 trillion.
  • The US Treasury began ramping up issuance to the tune of about $1 trillion more, which is funneled through the 24 primary broker/dealers and the central banks.
  • The Fed began tightening monetary policy and tinkering with new measures of repo rates and LIBOR replacement.  They also began tinkering with the Interest on Excess Reserves (IOER) from banks and credit unions, to try to create higher reserves.
  • COVID-19 pandemic hit. The Fed did an about-face and began easing monetary policy immediately. They also went back to doing daily System RPs and Term RPs with the primary dealers.  They had also lowered IOER.  They now have raised IOER. 
  • The Fed effectively reinstated QE, injected at least $500 billion to buy US Treasuries again, $200 billion to buy Agency MBS again, and injected funds into the Dollar Roll market. They have said their buying power is unlimited. They have purchased about $733 billion in securities so far. They actually started QE BEFORE COVID-19, to raise “bank reserves” in Q4 2019. 
  • They then began reinstating specific bailout/backstop programs of 2008, and continue to add to the list.
  • QE purchases are winding down slowly, about $2 billion per day.  That would have QE end sometime in June. Of course, they can always restart QE. Open Market Operations (RP Operations) have continued, although at a less hectic pace.
  • Issuance of US Treasuries hit $23.5 trillion, and is expected to go higher.
  • The Fed rolled out their Main Street Lending Program to mid-market companies. 
  • Basel IV is now coming, after Basel III began being implemented.

Securities Finance Industry Conferences: (most conferences from March on were postponed, cancelled, or made virtual)

  • Deutsche Borse/Clearstream/Securities Lending Times held their annual GFF Summit in Luxembourg, 1/28-1/30/20, which I attended two years ago.
  • IMN 26th Beneficial Owners International Securities Finance conference will be held in Fort Lauderdale, FL on 2/12-2/13/20. I was the Chairperson in 2019 and will be a moderator this year.  That has been my last Repo conference so far this year.
  • iMoneyNet/Informa annual MMExpo, after the merger.  I have spoken at this one several times.
  • PASLA/RMA 17th annual Conference on Asian Securities Lending.
  • GIOA 16th annual conference. I have spoken (and sung) at this one. 
  • Crane Data annual Bond Fund Symposium.
  • IHS Markit annual Securities Finance Forum.  
  • Finadium 4th annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference in NYC.  I’ve spoken and sponsored this one.
  • GFOA gigantic 114th (wow!) annual conference.  I have attended this one in the past and manned one of 250 booths.
  • IMN/AFME annual Global Bank ABS (West) conference.
  • Worldwide Business Research annual Fixed Income Leaders USA Summit.
  • ISLA 29th Annual Securities Finance and Collateral Management conference.  I have spoken (and sung) at this one before.
  • ICMA/Securities Lending Times annual AGM and conference.
  • Crane Data annual Money Fund Symposium. I have spoken at this conference before.
  • National Association of State Treasurers annual conference.  I’ve spoken and sung at this one.
  • IMN annual European Securities Finance conference.  I’ve attended this before.  
  • Worldwide Business Research annual Fixed Income & FX Leader Summit.
  • IMN annual ABS East conference. I’ve attended this before.
  • Worldwide Business Research Fixed Income Leaders 2020 conference 
  • RMA will hold its 38th annual Conference on Securities Finance and Collateral Management in Amelia Island, FL on October 12-15.  I saw many of you last year in Boca Raton.  It was my 37th RMA I’ve attended. WAS CANCELLED FOR ONLY THE 2nd TIME (FIRST WAS AFTER 9/11/01).
  • Crane Data annual European Money Fund Symposium.    
  • Finadium Investors in Securities Lending Conference Europe.
  • American Financial Professionals (AFP) annual conference.
  • Finadium Rates & Repo conference in New York.  I’ve spoken and sponsored this one.
  • Risk.net annual conference. I’ve chaired this one. 
  • SIFMA annual meeting.
  • GFMA annual Conference on Sustainable Finance will be held virtually on 12/3/20.
  • FIS is holding a Webinar on trends in Securities Finance on 12/9/20. 

Federal Reserve News:

The Fed Funds rate, which is still the target rate of Federal Reserve monetary policy and changes to which are made by and announced by the FOMC at regularly scheduled meetings, is currently set at 0.00-0.25% (remember, the Fed has been using a target ‘range’ for a while). It has actually been trading closer to 0.035% lately. The Federal Reserve posts an Effective Fed Funds Rate (EFFR).  The Overnight Bank Funding Rate (OBFR), is also published by the NY Fed to capture the volume-weighted median of overnight federal funds transactions, Eurodollar transactions, and the domestic deposits reported by banks.  

The next FOMC meetings (and they are all two-day meetings so these are the second day, when they actually announce) are: 12/16/20. However, as we saw on 3/3/20, the FOMC can call emergency meetings at any time, even on weekends, especially during the pandemic crisis we are facing now.  For 2021, the Fed announced FOMC meetings for: 01/27/21, 03/17/21, 04/28/21, 06/16/21, 07/28/21, 09/22/21, 11/03/21, and 12/15/21. All of the meetings are two-day meetings. I have listed the 2nd day.

The Federal Reserve’s Reverse Repo Facility (RRP), which has over 300 approved participants (mostly banks, GSEs, and MMFs) is used as a tool by the Federal Reserve, along with its Fed Funds target-setting monetary policy, and IOER for depository institutions, to help control short-term interest rates. The Fed is currently only repoing out US Treasuries from its portfolio and typically only Overnight.

At the 11/05/20 FOMC meeting, the Fed kept interest rate target near 0% and said the economy is still well below pre-pandemic levels, despite certain markets moving to pre-pandemic levels or even record levels. As I said in the last Repo Commentary, with a change in Administration, a political fight is brewing, according to the NY Times, over whether to extend critical programs that the Federal Reserve implemented in March and April, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those programs are set to expire on 12/31/20. It is unclear whether President Trump’s administration, Fed Chair Jerome Powell, or Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin, have decided if they will continue the programs.

In today’s FOMC statement, we look for what the Fed will adjust to keep GC Repo rates from going negative, which could lead to other problems. We also will see what they intend to do about large-scale buying of US Treasuries (continuing QE 4 or 5, whoever is counting), what the economic outlook is, and if there is a plan for any other emergency lending facilities. 

Earthquakes and Volcanoes:

Here are the latest significant earthquakes over the last couple of weeks.  It’s been pretty quiet:

4.4 12/14 SSE of Waimea, Hawaii

6.1 12/10 E of Yilan, Taiwan

6.1 12/06 E of Iquique, Chile

3.6 12/06 SSW of Warner Springs, CA

4.4 12/06 W of Lakeport, CA

3.6 12/05 WSW of Aguanga, CA

6.4 12/01 ESE of Nikolski, AK

Weather:

West Palm Beach has had a merciful four-day cold spell that brought temps fortunately down to the 50s, after being in the mid-80s last week and windy. But, today, temperatures will return to the 70s, until another cold front hits at the end of the weekend.  

The Atlantic Hurricane Season began June 1st and ended November 30th. According to Accuweather, the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was expected to have a more-active-than-normal season. They expected about 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 4 of them major hurricanes.  CSU was predicting an above-average hurricane season in the Atlantic for 2020, with the likely absence of El Nino. Tropical and subtropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures are higher than normal, which tends to promote active hurricane seasons. Consequently, CSU predicted 16 named storms in the Atlantic, with 8 to become Hurricanes, and 4 to reach Category 3 or above strength.  

It turns out that they were both wrong, and it has become the record worst or most active tropical cyclone season ever in the Atlantic. There have now been 30 tropical or subtropical cyclones, 30 named tropical storms, 14 hurricanes, and 6 major hurricanes. There were also 12 US landfalls, which broke the 2016 record of 9. And it is not over yet! There is still tropical activity that has a chance to form into a Tropical Storm or more. 28 named storms was the previous record, held by the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season as the most active, and also only the second hurricane season to have to use the Greek letter storm-naming system, after running out of the assigned names. To put this in perspective, an average Atlantic hurricane season produces only 12 named Tropical Storms, so 2020 was already 250% more active than average. And, it still may not be over!  Since 1900, tropical Atlantic Ocean temperatures have increased by 2 degrees Fahrenheit. There was no El Nino this year in the tropical Pacific Ocean, which usually means that the strong upper-level winds (wind shear) produced did not make it over to the Atlantic Ocean to battle hurricane formation. A La Nina formed late this hurricane season in the Pacific Ocean, which contributed to stronger storms in the latter half of the Atlantic Ocean season. The National Hurricane Center estimates there have only been 37 Category 5 storms in the last 170 years in the Atlantic Ocean. However, we have had 7 Category 5 storms in just the last five years!

The 2019 season had 18 named storms, matching 1969 for the 4th most-lively season in the past 150 years. 

The Pacific Hurricane Season starts 5/1/21 and ends 11/1/21. There are no tropical cyclones currently in the Eastern North Pacific or Central North Pacific. 

Sports News:       

MLB:

The 2019 MLB regular season began on 3/28 last year and ended on 9/30 (more than 6 months).  The Washington Nationals beat The Houston Astros in 7 games in The World Series. As these 2 teams played each other in March 2020, in the Spring Training facility that they share and that I sing the National Anthem at, the Spring Training season (and eventually MLB season) ended about 3/15, with the pandemic shutdown. MLB shut down both the Cactus League and Grapefruit League Spring Training about halfway through. Then, MLB cancelled the Minor League seasons for all 3 levels of the Minors. 

MLB finally came to an agreement with the MLBPA, and played a Summer Camp (short Spring Training) leading up to a 60-game, shortened, regular season of the 30 teams still aligned in 6 divisions, and still with AL and NL distinctions, which started 7/23/20. The games were played without fans, but the teams still travelled and didn’t not have the ‘Bubble Format’ of the NHL and NBA. That proved to be a mistake, as many games had to be postponed, doubleheadered, or cancelled for several teams, as COVID-19 outbreaks ran through teams.  This “asterisked regular season” ended on 9/27/20. In the World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Tampa Rays 4 games to 3, to win in an exciting (and rare) 7-game series. 

The MLB owners want to delay the start of 2021 season and have it be only 140 games, not 162.  However, MLB Players Association says that players are planning to start on time, and we have the makings of the same feud we had in 2020.  That feud, which started over the length of the season, moved on to forcing players to pro-rate their salaries downward based on the actual number of games played. Then, owners pressed for more salary concessions beyond that prorating and the final 60-game season wasn’t even fully played for most teams.  The owners appear to be using the pandemic as a way to get out of paying those full salaries for another year. Owners also want players to be vaccinated before beginning Spring Training.  I am hearing that Spring Training will likely be postponed, as my Boston Red Sox Fantasy Camp (which I considered playing in this year, now that I have a new knee) was cancelled to give Spring Training extra time. However, MLB intends to HAVE Spring Training, but they have not decided yet (according to my friends at the Marlins and Cardinals) whether they will have fans in the seats and whether they will do live National Anthems. Obviously, having sung 153 MLB games so far, that is very important to me, and I’ll keep you updated.  I have not heard back from the other ballpark for the Nationals and Astros.  The Yankees will acquire Greg Allen from the Padres. Rumors are that the Yankees have the inside track on acquiring ace Corey Kluber. Cubs Kris Bryant is now a trade rumor, as is teammate Anthony Rizzo. The Cubs are in the midst of dumping payroll, last week sending ace Yu Darvish and his catcher, Victor Caratini, to the Padres for Zach Davies and 4 prospects. They are listening to offers on every player, including star catcher Willson Contreras. Javier Baez and Craig Kimbrel are also rumored to be tradeable, as they all become free agents after this season. The Padres rotation is impressive now, after adding Yu Darvish and Rays’ Blake Snell, both blockbuster trades last week. They join the World Series champ Dodgers and Yankees as the best odds to win the 2021 World Series and having the top rotations. The Braves and Nationals fill out the rest of the top 5 pitching rotations. 

Golf:

The PGA Tour 2021 season will begin in Hawaii, at Kapalua, at the Sentry Tournament of Champions this week. World No.1 is currently Dustin Johnson, who lives about 10 miles up the road from me in Florida. He had a masterful season last year (culminating in winning the Masters in November), although the schedule was a mess and shortened from the pandemic. Only 3 of the 4 Majors were played, and they were all mixed up in order. Bryson DeChambeau, who also had a pretty good 2020 season (including winning the Rocket Mortgage Classic in July with a 313-yard driving average and winning the US Open in September) told reporters that his goal this year is to achieve a 210 mph average ball speed!  He currently leads the Tour with a 192.8 mph ball speed. He has yet to break 200 mph barrier in competition, which he feels will finally give him the shot distance he desires. He has been hitting and taking notes from friend and top-ranked World Long Drive competitor, Kyle Berkshire, who set the world record for ball speed with 228 mph, on his way to winning the WLD Final in 2019. They each are helping each other, as Berkshire wants to revive his playing career. DeChambeau hit 211 mph on the range already at Kapalua and hit an 8-iron 205 yards! Normal amateur distance for an 8-iron is about 120-130 yards.  The PGA, after a 9-month delay, will be rolling out its pace of play policy. Phil Mickelson turned 50 in June 2020, but said he is not giving up the PGA Tour yet and moving to the Champions Tour. He said, “when I stop hitting bombs I’ll play the Champions Tour, but I’m hitting some crazy bombs right now.”

NFL:

The 100th NFL season ended last year, in Miami, in an entertaining 31-20 comeback Super Bowl victory for the Kansas City Chiefs over the San Francisco 49ers. The 2020 season began with no preseason games, with teams in their own stadiums, but with limited numbers of fans. Both, the ‘opting out’ of the season (Patriots had the most players opt out, with 8) and COVID-19 contractions, have wreaked havoc on team makeups, coaching staffs, and game results. Some games have been missing several star players, other games have been postponed. I think the NFL made a huge mistake (I know I keep saying it), just like MLB, in not playing in a bubble like the NBA and NHL. Week 17 of the irregular season has ended and we are now on to an abbreviated Playoffs this weekend.

Let’s start with the teams that didn’t make the Playoffs and the growing number of head coaches who have been fired.  Falcons fired Dan Quinn in October. Lions fired former DC of Patriots Matt Patricia. Texans fired coach and GM Bill O’Brien in October.  The Jaguars fired Doug Marrone on 1/4/21 (which is considered Black Monday in the NFL for jobs).  The Chargers fired Anthony Lynn on 1/4/21. The Jets fired Adam Gase on 1/3/21. I think this list will grow. The Rams have activated WR Cooper Kupp from reserve/COVID-19 list. Chase Young of the Redskins says he wants to face the GOAT, Tom Brady, now of the Bucs. Ravens QB Lamar Jackson says he is out to erase the narrative about his playoff struggles. 

Now, to the Playoffs schedule:

The Chiefs have a bye for Week 1 of the Playoffs as the No.1 AFC team. They will face the winner of the Colts vs Bills. Also in the AFC, the Steelers will face the Browns and the Titans will face the Ravens. The winners of those two games will face each other.  There are a lot less steps now. On the NFC side, the Packers wound up as the No.1 NFC team and so get the bye. They will face the winner of the Saints vs Bears. Also in the NFC, the Seahawks will face the Rams and the Washington Football Team will face the Bucs. 

Tennis

The 2021 tennis season will kick off with the tournaments in Abu Dhabi and here in Delray Beach, Florida. The Australian Open is likely to be postponed by “one or two weeks” due to COVID-19 pandemic. ATP Finals champion Daniil Medvedev says that the Australian Open could be “really dangerous” for tennis players. Novak Djokovic reached the semis of the ATP Finals. Medvedev, who stunned No.1 Djokovic in the semis, came from behind to beat Dominic Thiem in the Finals. Thiem had beaten Rafael Nadal.

Olympics

The Summer Olympics, which were to start in July 2020, were postponed until July 2021. This is the first time ever that a Summer Olympics was held on an odd year. The start of WWII in 1939, forced the 1940 Summer Olympics to be delayed a few weeks, and then canceled. The 1944 Olympic Games were also not held.  The Summer Olympics did not begin again until London in 1948. But, they were never postponed. The Paralympics, also scheduled for 2020, have been postponed, as well, to 2021. Ironically, the Winter Olympics, which are held two years after the Summer Olympics, are still scheduled for 2022, only one year after the Summer Olympics. Frankly, I can’t remember an athlete that performed in both Summer and Winter Olympics, so I don’t think the one year shortened resting period will be a factor. 

NCAA Football:

In the beginning of 2020, LSU played Clemson for the College Football National Championship, and despite being down 17-7 in the 2nd quarter, came roaring back behind Heisman Trophy-winner QB Joe Burrow, and won 42-25. The NCAA announced that all Spring sports were cancelled, including NCAA Spring Football, and that all players in all sports would have another year of eligibility, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day was cancelled, the first time that has ever happened. 

Here is the post-bowls, final AP Top 25 Poll for 2019-2020:

  1. LSU 13-0
  2. Clemson 14-1
  3. Ohio State 13-1
  4. Georgia 12-2
  5. Oregon 12-2
  6. Florida 11-2
  7. Oklahoma 12-2
  8. Alabama 11-2
  9. Penn State 11-2
  10. Minnesota 11-2
  11. Wisconsin 10-4
  12. Notre Dame 11-2
  13. Baylor 11-3
  14. Auburn 9-4
  15. Iowa 10-3
  16. Utah 11-3
  17. Memphis 12-2
  18. Michigan 9-4
  19. Appalachian State 13-1
  20. Navy 11-2
  21. Cincinnati 11-3
  22. Air Force 11-2
  23. Boise State 12-2
  24. UCF 10-3
  25. Texas 8-5

2020-2021 NCAA Football season was a very strange season, with the start delayed, most teams playing with NO fans (which really took away, in my opinion, any home-field advantage that they had), and many games either cancelled or postponed (but you can’t really make a game up with a packed weekly schedule). So, consequently, the College Football Playoff Committee, after the AP Coaches and other rankers, had to determine whether a 5-1 team was as good or better than an 11-0 team, and we had weird amounts of games played for each conference and each team. There were some conferences that started later than others and some that only played teams in their OWN conference, and it was a mess. I don’t even know if this qualifies as an ‘asterisk’ season or sport. Anywho, we all struggled to make meaning of games that we were starving to see, since all the other sports were shut down, and it didn’t make as much sense as we hoped. However, by sheer dumb luck or by real sifting, the 2020-2021 NCAA College Football Playoff will come down to two teams that are usually at the top (lately) anyway, No.1 Alabama and No.3 Ohio State. They will play each other this Monday 1/11/21 for the Championship, even though one has played only 7 games and the other has played 12 games. And, how did they figure out that (4-3) Oregon was a Top 25 team? Riddle me that. On New Year’s Day, No.1 Alabama crushed No.4 Notre Dame and No.3 Ohio State surprisingly crushed No.2 Clemson. Somehow, also strange, I wound up watching lesser bowls than those. Must have been the timing.  I did see a lot of Indiana vs Mississippi, a bit of NC State vs Kentucky, LSU vs Florida (which was a great game), UNC vs Miami (which was not from this universe), way more than I wanted of Texas A&M vs Tennessee, Oklahoma vs Iowa State (which was another good game), and We Are Marshall unfortunately losing to Buffalo. Clemson’s QB Trevor Lawrence is leaving Clemson for the 2021 NFL Draft.  It was a very strange season to get there and, even looking at their records should show you the weirdness, but here we are:

1.          Alabama (12-0)

2.          Clemson (10-2)

3.          Ohio State (7-0)

4.          Notre Dame (10-2)

5.          Texas A&M (9-1)

6.          Oklahoma (9-2)

7.          Florida (8-4)

8.          Cincinnati (9-1)

9.          Georgia (8-2)

10.        Iowa State (9-3)

11.        Indiana (6-2)

12.        Coastal (11-1)

13.        UNC (8-4)

14.        Northwestern (7-2)

15.        Iowa (6-2)

16.        BYU (11-1)

17.        USC (5-1)

18.        Miami (8-3)

19.        LA-Lafayette (10-1)

20.        Texas (7-3)

21.        Oklahoma State (8-3)

22.        San Jose State (7-1)

23.        NC State (8-4)

24.        Tulsa (6-3)

25.        Oregon (4-3)

NCAA Basketball

As teams entered their week of Conference Championship Tournaments in early 2020, prior to the Committee’s decision on the 68 seeds for the National Championship (also known as March Madness), it all came to a halt due to COVID-19.  One after another, conferences cancelled their tournaments and the NCAA cancelled the National Championship, before it ever started, on 3/12. The NCAA did the same with the Women’s Basketball Tournament. 

The 2020-2021 season began in November. We are deep into it now, with no or limited fans in some stadiums, removing most of the home stadium advantage. We are also seeing major impacts to the top teams from COVID-19, causing them to cancel games.  My Michigan State (after beating Notre Dame and Duke), as well as the rest of the Big 10, have been particularly strong at the start.  These are the latest AP Top 25 Rankings is as of 12/16/20:

  1.  Gonzaga (3-0) have had to suspend activities due to COVID-19
  2.  Baylor (4-0) crushed Illinois, but suspended activities due to COVID-19
  3.  Iowa (6-0) crushed UNC and Iowa State
  4.  Kansas (6-1) only loss is to No.1 Gonzaga
  5.  Michigan State (6-0)
  6.  Tennessee (3-0)
  7.  Villanova (5-1)
  8.  West Virginia (6-1) only loss is to No.1 Gonzaga
  9.  Virginia (3-1) have suspended activities due to COVID-19
  10. Houston (4-0) have suspended activities due to COVID-19
  11. Texas (5-1) beat UNC and Indiana
  12. Texas Tech (6-1)
  13. Wisconsin (5-1)
  14. Ohio State (5-0)
  15. Missouri (5-0)
  16. Creighton (4-2)
  17. Illinois (5-2)
  18. Rutgers (5-0)
  19. Duke (2-2)
  20. UNC (4-2)
  21. San Diego State (5-0)
  22. FSU (4-0)
  23. Louisville (4-0)
  24. Michigan (6-0)
  25. Saint Louis (5-0)

NHL:

Last season (2019) ended in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals on 6/12/19, when the St. Louis Blues beat my Bruins 4-3 in the Finals. The puck dropped on this asterisk season on 10/2/19. Then it all ended about 70 of 82 games into the regular season. On 5/28, in a very unusual move, the NHL concluded the 2019-2020 regular season and awarded my Boston Bruins with the Presidents’ Trophy (for having the best record), which is typically a curse for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for that team. The Bruins also received the William M. Jennings Trophy (both Bruins’ goalies Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak, for best goals-against avg.) and Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy (David Pastrnak for most goals, 48, tied with Alex Ovechkin). Ironically, halfway through the playoffs, Tuukka Rask suddenly announced that he was leaving the Bruins, leaving them with just their No.2 goalie. Seattle will finally get a new NHL team in 2021-2022 season, the Seattle Kraken. 

The puck dropped (again) to conclude this past season on 8/1/20. The teams played in the modified playoffs in two bubble arenas in Toronto and Edmonton, without fans. The Stanley Cup was won by the Tampa Bay Lightning (who ousted my Bruins, due to the Presidents Cup curse) over the Dallas Stars, 4 games to 2. The Finals were held in the Edmonton bubble, without fans.

The United States shocked Canada and just won the 2021 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship by a score of 2-0 in Edmonton on Tuesday! Spencer Knight (soon to be a Florida Panther) made 34 saves for his 3rd shutout of the tournament, setting US WJC career and single-tournament records. It was the first shutout by the US in the semifinal round or championship game in history! It was only the 5th championship for the US, and 4 of those titles came by wins over Canada (2004, 2010, 2017, 2021). Team USA Trevor Zegras (soon to be an Anaheim Duck) was named the tournament MVP. 

The 2021 NHL season (which normally would have started in 2020 and wrapped around to 2021) has been delayed.  The regular season is normally 82 games, but will only be 56 games this year, once again due to the pandemic. There will also be divisional realignment to limit team matchups to intra-division play and minimize team travel as much as possible, due to the pandemic. Remember, there were two Conferences with weird names for 4 Divisions of each, to get to (now) 31 teams. This will be this season’s odd configuration:

NORTH (all Canadian)

Calgary Flames

Edmonton Oilers

Montreal Canadiens

Ottawa Senators

Toronto Maple Leafs

Vancouver Canucks

Winnipeg Jets

WEST

Anaheim Mighty Ducks

Phoenix Coyotes

Colorado Avalanche

LA Kings

Minnesota Wild

San Jose Sharks

St. Louis Blues

Las Vegas Golden Knights

CENTRAL

Carolina Hurricanes

Chicago Blackhawks

Columbus Blue Jackets

Dallas Stars

Detroit Redwings

Florida Panthers

Nashville Predators

Tampa Bay Lightning

EAST

Boston Bruins

Buffalo Sabres

New Jersey Devils

New York Islanders

New York Rangers

Philadelphia Flyers

Pittsburgh Penguins

Washington Capitals

That announcement was made by the NHL on 12/23. On New Year’s Day, the Canadian government, citing “national interest grounds” gave its approval for the start of NHL training camps. It issued an exemption for the mandatory 14-day quarantine period for NHL players and team staff to return to the country. The five provinces with NHL franchises, however, must give their approval for games between Canadian teams during the regular season, which is still scheduled to start 1/13/21. The 7 Canadian teams will play this season in a separate realigned division. Training camp for the American NHL teams began on 1/3/21. The NHLPA is still planning on allowing its players to return to the Olympics in 2022. The governors of the six New England states and New Jersey have extended a ban on interstate youth hockey through the end of January 2021. Boston Bruin captain, Zdeno Chara, 43, has agreed to a one-year $795,000 contract with the Washington Capitals for 2021. He is the oldest player in the NHL and tallest player at 6’9. He played 14 seasons for the Bruins. New Jersey Devil’s No.1 pick, Nico Hischier, will not participate in training camp, after injuring his leg training in Switzerland earlier this month. He was the No.1 pick in the 2017 Draft and signed a 7-year/$50.75 million contract in 2019 that begins this season. New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, 38, said Monday that he is scheduled for open-heart surgery. He had announced 12/17/20 that he could not play this season because of a heart condition. He had signed a one year/$1.5 million contract with the Rangers, after his contract was bought out. Chicago Blackhawks’ Kirby Dach will be out 4-5 months, after wrist surgery from an injury at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship. Ilya Kovalchuk is officially headed back to the KHL. The veteran signed a 2year deal with Avangard Omsk last Saturday, returning to the Russian league for the first time since 2017-2018.  He spent 5 years in the KHL starting in 2013-2014 and was one of the best players in that league at the time. At his hockey peak, Kovalchuk was one of the most dominant goal scorers in the NHL, scoring at least 40 goals six different times in his career and 50 goals twice. Stanley Cup Champion Lightning will be without their All-Star, Nikita Kucherov, for the entire regular season, after hip surgery. NBC Sports announced that NBC and NBCSN will begin broadcasting NHL games on 1/13 and feature roughly 100 games of the 31 NHL teams during the regular season. 

NBA:

Last year, the NBA season did not start until 10/22/19, 18 days later than last year. We were nearing the playoffs, when the pandemic shut the regular season down, with just a little over a month left. Late 6/4/20, the NBA reportedly approved a 22-team format to restart the season in the Summer. All games were played at the three venues at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fl, starting 7/31. The modified playoff format for this asterisk season began on 10/12. In the end, the Miami Heat lost the Championship to the LA Lakers. 

The NBA season tipped off again on 12/22/20. But, it is totally different. Fan attendance differs in every stadium, depending on different factors, including state COVID-19 guidelines. Some stadiums are forced to deal with 10% of capacity attendance. Celtics’ TD Garden allowed ZERO fans at games. The Hornets also followed suit with NO fans. Cavs can have 300 fans at games. Rockets will have reduced capacity of fans. Pelicans will have 4% capacity of fans.  Raptors will have 3,200 fans maximum. Magic will have 4,000 fans maximum.  Jazz will have only a few thousand fans. Other teams with NO fans to start the season: Bulls, Nuggets, Pistons, Warriors, Pacers, Clippers, Lakers, Heat, Bucks, Timberwolves, Knicks, Thunder, 76ers, Suns, Trail Blazers, Kings, Spurs, and Wizards.  We are into Week 2 of the NBA 2020-2021 season now. Stephen Curry and Tobias Harris were named NBA Players of the Week. Stephen just put up a 62-point effort!  Spencer Dinwiddie has had successful ACL surgery.  Mavs star Luka Doncic has been sidelined with contusion of quadriceps. Chris Paul is quickly making his presence known on the West-leading Suns (I remember how they were the worst team for a decade). HOF Paul Westphal (noted Celtic) has died at the age of 70. Still Houston star, James Harden, not traded, was scratched from a game against the Kings because of a sprained ankle. Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson was fined $25,000 for making contact with an official. Carmelo Anthony has now passed Tim Duncan for 14th on all-time list of career scoring, averaging 23.5 points per game in more than 1,100 career games. Sacramento Kings seem happy about their No.12 draft pick, Tyrese Haliburton.   

Horse Racing:

For the first time since WWII, the Kentucky Derby was postponed from 5/2/20. It was run on 9/5/20, Labor Day weekend. The Preakness Stakes was moved from 5/16/20 to 10/3/20. The Belmont Stakes was shifted from 6/6 to 6/20. So, the 3rdleg of the Triple Crown became the 1st leg, the 1st leg became the 2nd leg, and the 2nd leg became the 3rd leg. It was awfully confusing and all the races were held without fans. Tiz the Law won the Belmont, but Authentic beat him in the Kentucky Derby, and the Preakness was won in an upset by a filly, Swiss Skydiver. Global superstar Goldikova has died at age 16. She was one of the world’s top racehorses of any sex or surface in the past 15 years. She was dominant in her 5 seasons on the track, winning 17 of 27 starts for $7,176,551. Details have emerged from attempted murder charge against jockey CJ McMahon. NY Governor Cuomo is pushing for mobile sports betting. Mucho Gusto has been retired with a soft-tissue injury. Racing has begun in Australia. 

Racing:

NASCAR began the 2020 season with 4 races at Daytona, followed by 3 scheduled races, the last on 3/8/20. But, then the pandemic shut everything down, wiping out the next 7 scheduled races.  The season finally restarted at Darlington Raceway on 5/17. The race was run without fans in the stands. NASCAR is making every effort to get as many of the originally schedule races in to the abbreviated season that had been postponed. Some races will be cancelled.

In the NASCAR Cup Series of 2019, Kyle Busch won in the last race at Homestead.  In 2018, the winner was Joey Logano, who beat Martin Truex Jr. in the final 15 laps of the final race at Homestead.  Truex Jr. won the crown in 2017.  The 2020 regular season will begin in February with the Daytona 500. Here is the complete (updated) schedule of races for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup in 2020 and the results. You will notice that, after 3/8/20, some races had to be postponed, some had to be cancelled, and some had to be replaced by other races. Also, NASCAR snuck in a lot more races in-between the typical Sunday races. In addition, NASCAR was the first professional sport to allow spectators back during the COVID-19 epidemic: 

2/16 Daytona 500 (postponed by rain to 2/17)-winner Erik Jones

2/23 Las Vegas, Jiffy Lube Pennzoil 400-winner Joey Logano

3/1 Auto Club 400-winner Alex Bowman

3/8 Phoenix, FanShield 500-Joey Logano

3/15 Atlanta, Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500-POSTPONED

3/22 Homestead, Dixie Vodka 400-POSTPONED

3/29 Texas, O’Reilly Auto Parts 500-POSTPONED

4/5 Bristol, Food City 500-CANCELLED

4/19 Richmond, Toyota Owners 400-POSTPONED

4/26 Talladega, GEICO 500-POSTPONED

5/3 Dover, NASCAR Cup Race at Dover-POSTPONED

5/9 Martinsville, NASCAR Cup Race at Martinsville-POSTPONED

5/16 Charlotte, NASCAR All Star Open-CANCELLED

5/17 Darlington, The Real Heroes 400-winner Kevin Harvick

5/20 Darlington, Toyota 500-winner Denny Hamlin

5/24 Charlotte, Coca-Cola 600 as originally scheduled-winner Brad Keselowski

5/28 Charlotte, Alsco Uniforms 500-winner Chase Elliott

5/31 Kansas, Kansas 400-replaced by NASCAR CUP SERIES Food City Supermarket Heroes 500 at Bristol, which was scheduled for 4/5-winner Brad Keselowski

6/7 Michigan, FireKeepers Casino 400-replaced by Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 in Atlanta, which was scheduled for 3/15, winner Kevin Harvick

6/10 Martinsville, Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville, which was scheduled for 5/9, winner Martin Truex, Jr. 

6/14 Sonoma, Toyota/Save Mart 350-replaced by Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead, Miami, which was scheduled for 3/22-winner Denny Hamlin

6/22 Chicagoland, Chicagoland 400-replaced by GEICO 500 at Talladega, which was scheduled for 4/26-winner Ryan Blaney

6/27 Pocono, inserted race Organics 325 in partnership with Rodale Institute-winner Kevin Harvick

6/27 Pocono, Worry-Free Weather Guarantee 350-as scheduled-winner Denny Hamlin

7/5 Indianapolis, Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400-as scheduled-winner Kevin Harvick

7/12 Kentucky, Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart-as scheduled-winner Cole Custer

7/15 Bristol, NASCAR All-Star Open, inserted race-Matt DiBenedetto

7/15 Bristol, NASCAR All-Star Race, inserted race-Chase Elliott

7/19 New Hampshire, Foxwoods Resort Casino 301, replaced by O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway-winner Austin Dillon

7/23 Super Start Batteries 400, also presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts, inserted race-winner Denny Hamlin

8/2 New Hampshire, Foxwoods Resort Casino 301, added-winner Brad Keselowski

8/8 Michigan, Firekeepers Casino 400-added-winner Kevin Harvick

8/9 Michigan, Consumers Energy 400, as scheduled-winner Kevin Harvick 

8/16 Watkins Glen, Go Bowling at The Glen-as scheduled-winner Chase Elliott

8/23 Dover, Drydene 400-as scheduled-winner Kevin Harvick

8/29 Daytona, Coke Zero Sugar 400-as scheduled-winner William Bryon

PLAYOFFS:

9/6 Darlington, Southern 500-winner Kevin Harvick

9/12 Richmond, Federated Auto Parts 400-Brad Keselowski

9/19 Bristol, Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race-Kevin Harvick

9/27 Las Vegas, South Point 400-Kurt Busch

10/4 Talladega, Alabama 500-Denny Hamlin

10/11 Charlotte, Bank of America ROVAL 400-Chase Elliott

10/18 Kansas, Hollywood Casino 400-Joey Logano

10/25 Texas, Texas 500-Kyle Busch

11/1 Martinsville, NASCAR Cup Fall Race-Chase Elliott

11/8 Phoenix, NASCAR Cup Series Championship-won by Chase Elliott. His dad, Bill Elliott, won the championship in 1988. They became the third father-son duo to win a title, joining the Petty’s (Lee and Richard) and Jarrett’s (Ned and Dale)

A bizarre Martin Truex Jr. retirement rumor has emerged. Jeremy Mayfield’s NASCAR career changed forever after he test positive. NASCAR season begins in Daytona on 2/14, 38 days from now. 

Formula One began with F1 Car Launch Dates for the various teams from 2/12 through 2/15 for Renault, Racing Point, McLaren, and Ferrari.  That was followed by the Pre-Season Testing schedule.  The opening of the season coincided with the COVID-19 lockdown, and the Australia Grand Prix was about to run, and FIA announced that the season would be delayed at least until the 5/3 Dutch Grand Prix.  It announced a number of race postponements. F1 will have an abbreviated 19 race season (instead of the record 22-race season planned), when it begins. The reports were that they were thinking about 7/5 as a start date, and that was good intel.  There will likely be no summer break and they anticipate that the season end date will extend beyond the original end date of 11/27-29. So, we lost the Australian GP, Bahrain GP, Vietnamese GP, Chinese GP, and Canadian GP. The season began on 7/5/20 with the Austrian GP. Here is the NEW 2020 schedule and results:

7/5/20       Austrian GP-winner V.Bottas

7/12/20     Steiermark GP-winner L.Hamilton

7/19/20     Hungarian GP-winner L.Hamilton

8/2/20       British GP-winner L.Hamilton

8/9/20       70th Anniversary GP-Verstappen

8/15/20     Spanish GP-L.Hamilton

8/30/20     Belgian GP-L.Hamilton

9/6/20       Italian GP-Gasly

9/13/20     Tuscan GP-L.Hamilton

9/27/20     Russian GP-L.Hamilton

10/25/20   Portugal GP-L.Hamilton

11/1/20     Italy GP-L.Hamilton

11/15/20   Turkey GP

11/29/20   Abu Dhabi GP

Lewis Hamilton won his 7th World Title.  He is to be awarded a knighthood. F1 will revert to 2pm start times in 2021. Matteo Pagliani was crowned inaugural F1 Mobile Racing Esports Champion. 

Here is the IndyCar Racing circuit (Indy cars are generally considered faster than F1 car along straight lines, mostly because their races are on oval tracks, while F1 tracks are more intricate, requiring better brakes and more aerodynamic grip than Indy cars).  In 2019, Josef Newgarden came in 8th in the last race, to just edge out Simon Pagenaud for the championship.  COVID-19 pandemic was going to allow only one IndyCar race to run so far this season, St. Petersburg, and it would be without spectators. However, just before the race, IndyCar announced that the rest of the season would be postponed at least until June 14, and several races would be cancelled, including this one. It then announced that all races through April would be cancelled. They have announced some postponements of later races, which I will update as I receive them (notice that IndyCar doubled up on some races on back-to-back days):

3/15 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg-POSTPONED to 10/25

3/22 Circuit of the Americas-CANCELLED

4/5 Grand Prix of Alabama-Takuma Sato-CANCELLED

4/19 Grand Prix at Long Beach-CANCELLED

4/26 AutoNation IndyCar Challenge at Austin, TX-CANCELLED

5/9 GMR Grand Prix of Indianapolis-postponed to 7/4

5/24 104th Indianapolis 500-postponed to 8/23

5/30 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 1-CANCELLED

5/31 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 2-CANCELLED

6/6 Genesys 600 at Texas Grand Prix-This race is expected to be run without spectators in a shortened 300 miles-winner Scott Dixon

6/21 Rev Group Grand Prix at Road America-POSTPONED

6/27 Indy Richmond 300-CANCELLED

7/4    GMR Grand Prix, Indianapolis (postponed from 5/9)-winner Scott Dixon

7/11 Rev Group GP at Road America-Race 1-winner Scot Dixon

7/12 Honda Indy Toronto-CANCELLED, replaced by Rev Group GP at Road America-Race 2-winner Felix Rosenqvist

7/17 Iowa 300-rescheduled as Grand Prix of Iowa-Race 1-winner Simon Pagenaud

7/18 Grand Prix of Iowa-Race 2, inserted race-winner Josef Newgarden

8/23 Bommarito Automotive Group 500-POSTPONED, replaced by Indianapolis 500, previously scheduled for 5/24-Takuma Soto

8/29 Bommarito Automotive Group 500 race 1-inserted-Scott Dixon

8/30 Bommarito Automotive Group 500 race 2-originally scheduled for 8/23-Josef Newgarden

9/12 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Race 1-inserted-Will Power

9/13 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Race 2-inserted-Colton Herta

9/13 Grand Prix of Portland, POSTPONED one week 

9/19 Firestone Grand Prix at Monterey Race 1, inserted race-

9/20 Firestone Grand Prix at Monterey Race 2, as scheduled-Josef Newgarden

10/2 IndyCar Harvest GP 1 at Indianapolis-ADDED-Josef Newgarden

10/3 IndyCar Harvest GP 2 at Indianapolis-ADDED-Will Power

10/25 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg-ADDED as final race-Josef Newgarden

Scott Dixon was the Championship winner for 2020, edging out defending champion, Josef Newgarden.

In Motorsport, Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia won the World Rally Championship, while Hyundai won the manufacturer’s title. 

3-time Indianapolis 500 and two INDYCAR championships winning team owner, U.E. “Pat” Patrick, has died at age 91. INDYCAR Race winner and Indianapolis 500 veteran, John Paul Jr., has died at age 60. The St. Petersburg Firestone Grand Prix has shifted to April 25. 

Travel News:

Mexican pilots have rejected a cost-saving plan put forward by their own trade union amid talks on how to restructure airline Grupo Aeromexico. The airline has wound up in discussions with two labor unions, but remains in talks with two more on Tuesday. This update was apparently a requirement for the airline to receive a second tranche of bankruptcy funding. For those of you readers old enough, you know what a tranche is. For those too young, it’s at the front of an elephant. Sorry. Now, get off of my lawn! Of course, I’m kidding. Airbus is expected to lose over $5 billion in orders under AirAsia X’s proposed restructuring, as court documents show. They are joining a dozen creditors that have challenged the Malaysian low-budget carrier’s bankruptcy plan. I see a theme here… The official overseeing Norwegian Air’s bankruptcy protection plan from its creditors in Ireland will present a report to the Irish High Court on 1/22. Norwegian Air’s shareholders are backing the restructuring plan. Struggling South African Airways said on Wednesday (today) that they have issued a 48-hour notice to prevent nearly 400 pilots from accessing the company’s premises (lockout), until they agree to a new contract. MGM is being urged by some shareholders to sell 20% of its China business. 

Health News:  

As of this evening (1/05), globally, more than 1,877,852 people have died from COVID-19.  More than 86.9 million people have been infected with COVID-19. In the US, confirmed cases of COVID-19 have surpassed 21.2 million people. Of that, US deaths from the pandemic have surpassed 359,977. The US has the most deaths from COVID-19 of any country in the world, followed by Brazil (197,732), India (150,114), Mexico (128,822), and UK (77,470). COVID-19 continues to ravage Europe. Remember, Dr. Fauci was ridiculed when he predicted 150,000-250,000 deaths in the US from COVID-19, near the beginning of the pandemic. We are now at almost 360,000.

In the US, three States have the worst COVID-19 infection rates of anywhere in the world.  Arizona currently has the highest per-capita rate of new COVID-19 infections, with 785 cases per 100,000 population over the last 7 days, followed closely by California (658) and Rhode Island (671), according to NBC News. The COUNTRY with the highest per-capita infection rate is the Czech Republic, at 653 cases per 100,000 over the past 7 days. The trend is also countrywide, as the US has reported an average of 451 new cases per 100,000 per day over the past 7 days, putting it as the 10th highest countrywide rate in the world (and that includes tiny countries ahead of the US like San Marino and Lichtenstein, which need only a few people to have a high rate.). Hospitals in California have been overwhelmed, as the state is experiencing record numbers of daily deaths and hospitalizations. Case numbers in Los Angeles County alone have increased 905% since 11/1/20. 10 people there are getting sick with COVID-19 every minute. South America has hit a new high for COVID-19 hospitalizations rate and case numbers. 

In the US, there is an email address to send your information to, in order to receive information on when you will be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. I sent that in on Monday. On Tuesday, I got a rash of grief from some Pharmacology major on why I’m just playing into big-Pharma’s hands and yet another conspiracy theory about the new strain of COVID-19 that showed up in California. I believe, but I have not done the calculations yet, that conspiracy theories about the virus and the election have multiplied at a much faster rate than the price of Bitcoin in 2020, but I’m not sure yet! I think I could write a whole other Repo Commentary based on Conspiracy Theories. January is normally the boomtime for gyms, as people join to strive to complete New Year’s resolutions, and then start dropping off on attendance in February and March. This year, however, thanks to the pandemic, combined with an explosion in fitness tech (like the $3500 Mirror, Peloton bikes, and Zoom fitness classes), people have found other ways to exercise and may not return to the gym soon. Although I work out frequently, I have not been to the gym since the beginning of March. I didn’t think the precautions they were taking were sufficient and froze my membership. Frankly, I always thought that gyms were a breeding petri dish for the common cold, flu, and other viruses for years, especially with the unclean habits of many members. I miss the better workout than I can get in my apartment or my building, but still won’t take the risk, until I have been vaccinated. Peloton’s annual revenues hit $1.8 billion in the 12 months ending June 2020, double its revenues from the year before. 

CureVac has struck a COVID-19 vaccine alliance deal with Bayr-Bild. 

Animal News:

Siberia’s enormous hole in the ground is growing, due to the way permafrost interacts with the warming environment.  I have now become one of millions of people who has sent in their AncestryDNA information and saliva, not only to find out my roots, but to also appear on some future Dateline or 20/20.  He wasn’t in Codex, but we found his DNA in Ancestry. This is important: I told you in the last Repo Commentary that new Department of Transportation regulations had redefined what a ‘support animal’ was for travel on airplanes to just dogs (not cats, snakes, lizards, pigs, ponies, peacocks, etc.). American Airlines has decided, on Wednesday, to go further when the new DOT rules go into effect on 1/11/21, and will no longer allow ANY ‘emotional support animals’ to fly, including dogs. They are reverting back to only allowing ‘service animals’ as defined as a DOG “trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability.” This is despite that, in many cases, emotional support animals are prescribed by mental health professionals to provide comfort and support. However, unlike service animals, emotional support animals are not required to have training in specific tasks. Animals that previously traveled as emotional support animals may travel as carry-on or cargo pets. My feeling is that the people who had no need for an emotional support animal and fraudulently flaunted or bent the rules (I know several) to get their pet on planes or in restaurants, have just made it bad for people who DO need emotional support animals (for instance, PTSD sufferers). As someone old in my family once said, “that just rots my socks.”  Did you know that feral hogs cause more than $1.5 billion in damage each year. Here in West Palm Beach, across from the airport, Palm Beach Kennel Club, after 88 years of running, closed on New Year’s Eve, after decades of featuring greyhound dog racing and becoming the dog-racing “mecca” of Florida, OTB-type horse racing, and recently poker rooms.  The greyhound racing was finally voted by Amendment 13 25 months ago. On Sunday, Derby Lane in St. Petersburg, Florida, the next-to-last track, closed. The demise of US greyhound racing, which has been around for over 100 years, is within sight. In the late 1980s, there were more than 60 dog tracks in operation in the US (in at least 12 states). There are now only 4 tracks running in 3 states (West Virginia, Arkansas, and Iowa). Earlier this year, dog tracks in Texas and Alabama closed. When the Amendment 13 passed in 2018, Florida had 11 of America’s 17 dog tracks. Some pet foods have been recalled after reports of 28 dog deaths, according to the FDA. The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree owl was captured and released back into the wild. More than 300 shark and ray species are threatened by extinction, according to a new report. A prehistoric ‘swamp king’ crocodile of Australia was over 16-feet-long, according to a new study. I’m still watching this video of a Florida pelican who swallowed an alligator whole! 

Entertainment News:

JAMES BOND: A VIEW TO A KILL girl and Charlie’s Angels actress, Tanya Roberts, has died at age 65. She appeared opposite Sir Roger Moore in his final BOND film. Phyllis McGuire, the last surviving member of the McGuire Sisters singing act died at age 89 on 12/29. Gilligan’s Island star who played Marianne on the show, Dawn Wells, died on 12/30 due to COVID complications, at age 82. The high school principal, Joe Clark, who served as the inspiration for Morgan Freeman’s 1989 film LEAN ON ME, died on 12/29 at the age of 82. HOF baseball pitcher, reknowned for his knuckleball, Phil Niekro, died at age 81 on 12/26 of cancer. Bluegrass guitarist, Tony Rice, died on 12/25 at age 69.  Tony-nominated Broadway actress, Rebecca Luker, died at age 59 on 12/23. Jeremy Bulloch, who famously portrayed Boba Fett in the original STAR WARS trilogy, died at age 75 on 12/17. During the pandemic lockdown, music listening or streaming has skyrocketed, with more than 155 million albums purchased or streamed in 2020, in just England, according to record label body BPI. This was an increase of 8.2% over the previous year. However, for the first time since records began in 1973, not a single album released in the last 12 months was certified platinum (representing 300,000 in sales). Only 16 singles songs received a platinum disc (representing 600,000 in sales).  In total, fans played 139 billion songs on services like Spotify, Amazon Music and Apple Music last year, up more than 22%. This has certainly come to the rescue of an industry crippled by the piracy crisis of 10 years ago, but there are still questions among artists on how the money from streaming services is distributed. In an odd twist, outside of streaming, vinyl continued to grow in popularity, with sales hitting 4.8 million, up from 4.3 million in 2019, making it the format’s best year since 1990. Also, sales of cassette tapes almost doubled to 156,542 sold, the highest total since 2003. CD sales continued to fall though, with only half the amount sold in 2020 as were sold in 2018.  At their peak in the UK, 163.4 million CDs were sold in 2004, and only 16 million in 2020. All of these are just British figures, not global figures, but the trend is similar.  So, I’ve now binge watched all of The Mandalorian on Disney+, as well as all of Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians Driving Cars Getting Coffee (I had no idea that this show has been around for like 11 years!). I have done a pretty good job binge-watching all the good shows on Netflix too, including Bloodline, Ozark, Away, The Crown, Queen’s Gambit, Fear City: New York VS The Mafia, Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich, Tiger King, Unbelievable, etc. Apparently, I have only scratched the surface, as Rotten Tomatoes lists 19 more series with higher rating than Unbelievable’s 98%!  And that’s looking at their 177 highest-rated Netflix series. I’m such a silly, uninformed person, as I thought I would look over at their Amazon-Prime highest rated series and there was a mere 58 more there. Sooo, apparently, I have barely watched the tip of the iceberg. The Office reunion is now looking more likely. Kristin Cavallari is feeling like her “old self” after turning 34. Something about that just annoys me. Bethenny Frankel and ex Paul Bernon just had a cozy reunion, after 3-month split. Dr. Dre has given his health update, after suffering a brain aneurysm. Meanwhile, 4 suspects have been arrested after an attempted burglary of his house while he was hospitalized. Christie Brinkley has undergone hip replacement surgery, 26 years after being injured in a helicopter crash. Not due to that ab machine she and Chuck Norris have been plugging. Okay, the scandal is all over now. Hilaria, Alec Baldwin’s wife is NOT Hispanic. She was born in the Boston area and grew up mostly in Connecticut. It was her press agent that screwed up her bio. Peacock is rebooting Punky Brewster. I know, why? Bridgerton’s Rege-Jean Page is seen as a possible JAMES BOND replacement. Kim Kardashian says that she’s getting her ”mind and body right” during Kanye West divorce speculation. Anne Burrell has a new cookware line. Ken Jennings, the all-time champion of Jeopardy! May replace Alex Trebek as the new host of the popular game show. I actually watched the last 5 episodes of the show to see Alex. He worked up until 10 days before his death. Gwen Stefani admits that she was confused why Blake Shelton took so long to propose to her.

Technology & Space News:

Amazon has been operating cargo planes and cargo vans for a long time.  But, in the past, those planes have been leased and the vans were leased. You know, if you’ve been reading this Repo Commentary, that the vans are now going to be purchased and be electric. Now, Amazon has purchased 11 jets from Delta Airlines and WestJet Airlines, which marks the beginnings of Amazon Air fleet that is expected to top 85 planes by the end of 2021. “Up in the air, junior birdman…” There isn’t a single reader out there old enough to get that reference.  

US News:

President Trump has still not conceded the 11/3 Presidential Election. Kenosha police officers will not face charges in the Jacob Blake shooting. In the US, kindergarten enrollment has declined. Delaying the start of kindergarten has been a thing since I was a kid (right before the turn of the 19th to 20th Century), as parents have opted to give their children extra time to prepare mentally and physically for school. However, this pandemic has sparked a sharp decrease in kindergarten enrollment in public schools. Many parents are simply ‘red-shirting’ their kids, like in college athletics. The silver lining is that this could lead to less college admissions competition. The Georgia Senate two runoffs may have yielded a small victory for the Democrats in the first runoff, which could lead to a narrow control of the Senate, to go along with their control of the House, and there apparent control of the Oval Office. The longer I take to write this Commentary, as always, the more important news that shows up that I need to report. So, now, as of Wednesday afternoon, it appears that the Democrats will win the second runoff as well in Georgia. However, the new headline news is that some 40,000 protesters stormed the US Capitol this afternoon, perhaps from some urging on by President Trump that he would join them (metaphorically), and actually broke through Capitol Police lines and the barriers and smashed the Capitol windows and stormed into the offices and gallery, forcing Senators to scramble to safety and Capitol Police to hold the protesters off with deadly force. One woman protester shot by Capitol Police died Wednesday night. This kind of scene hasn’t happened since the 1800s and is certainly a disgrace for America in front of other countries of the world. Reportedly, the people inside one section of the capitol were recounting the Electoral College votes for the Presidency. No matter which side anyone voted on, enough is enough. The future of Democracy in the country is now at stake, and even Vice President Pence said that he will take the side of the US Constitution. He openly defied his President Trump and said that Trump can’t reject electoral votes. This has been far from a peaceful turnover of power, and actually quite the opposite. The division in the country between different groups hasn’t been higher since the American Civil War. It did not help things that the police officers involved in shooting a black man 7 times in the back wound up not getting charged with any crimes on Tuesday. Basically, there is now dissatisfaction with the government and the police on many fronts. Sorry, this is going to seem scattered, but I’m trying to update it, as the news unfolds. President Trump’s Twitter account, on which he was able to reach at least 73 million Americans, has been locked, keeping him from entering any Tweets for 12 hours, until he removes an offensive video. 

Bankruptcy:

Business and personal bankruptcy filings fell to 529,068 in 2020, the lowest level since 1986, and a sharp drop from recent years’ total of nearly 800,000. The 2020 numbers, which also exclude Chapter 11 filings, are thought to be lower because of last year’s many pandemic relief programs. Before everyone jumps for joy, however, Reuters says that Chapter 11 filings, used typically for larger businesses and large individuals, still soared 29% in 2020, to 7,128, compared to 5,158 in 2019 (and 2019 included JC Penney and other brick and mortar stores closing due to an economic downturn.) Also, Epiq AACER SVP Kruse said in a press release that he expects household and other non-commercial bankruptcy filings “to grow substantially in the second half of 2021.” His feeling is that many government programs will end and many debts from the last few months will come due. Plus, many people wracked up future obligations by delaying rent and mortgage payments. Congress and the President DID finally agree on a further $900 billion second pandemic aid package, which included many areas, and $600 per citizen in the US.  Some people have already started receiving those checks or direct deposits. A $2000 stimulus check is supposedly still a possibility for citizens. I was hoping that this section of the Repo Commentary would never reappear, but wishes are for… I don’t remember the rest of it. China, apparently, has turned around more than 2,000 loss-making “zombie” and heavily indebted companies (without shooting them in the head or severing their heads) in its campaign against poorly performing enterprises, according to its regulator on Tuesday. Italy is considering taking on some $17 billion of UniCredit bad loans to ease MPS sale.

International News:

Singapore police tapped into data from a COVID-19 contact tracing app.  This was the very thing that many people feared. Ahhhh, 1984.  According to the World Economic Forum, data shows that in the 19th Century (don’t start!), people across the world used to work extremely long hours, but in the last 150 years (including the Industrial Revolution), working hours have decreased substantially, particularly in the richest countries. For the richest (or early-industrialized economies) over the last 150 years, hours worked annually dropped from about 3,000 (60-70 hours per week) to about 1,300-1,500 hours annually (or about 30-35 hours per week). Iran is ratcheting up aggression ahead of Biden inauguration. The US has sent more military personnel to Iraq and Afghanistan, despite the rhetoric that we are bringing soldiers out. Homicides in South America spiked in 2020, the second deadliest year in 25 years. North Korea’s Kim Jong Un said he would expand military capabilities to better defend the country, this morning. This was during  a rare party congress and despite international sanctions and pressure. Lovely.  Philippine students have been doing a lot of climbing on mountains and corrugated iron roofs, in order to get Internet signals to take online classes. Well, I used to have to walk to school both ways, uphill, ah never mind. Saudi Arabia is intent on moving quicker than its allies to reconcile with Qatar, aiming to impress the new US Presidential administration by ending what the West has seen as a parochial dispute that only benefits Iran. 

Florida:

For the first time since 3/15/20, nearly the start of the pandemic, I successfully sang my first singing gig at Zuccarellis Ristorante in West Palm Beach 12/18 6:30-10:00pm. I did half Elvis and half Christmas songs in a 2-hour gig that became 3 ½-hours. I’ve been asked to return monthly and perform there. 

Jokes and Such:

If you all keep sending me dirty jokes that I can’t publish in the Repo Commentary, I’m going to have to remove this section.  Again. 

Repo Commentary-12/16/20

It is Day 280 (on 12/16) since the official start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the day that the WHO declared it a ‘pandemic’ (3/11/20). Of course, that depends on which conspiracy theories to which you ascribe.

I hope that you and your families are staying healthy and safe. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its literal mortal, economic, and mental toll on millions of people around the world. For many, unemployment benefits could end soon.

In the last installment of the Repo Commentary (12/03), I wrote about my latest project. It was kind of a work of love, sort of like a 122,000-word book that I always wanted to write, about my 38 years in the Repo & Securities Lending industry.  In conjunction with Pierpoint Securities Finance Academy and sister company, Fintuition, I have compiled an 11-week state-of-the-art virtual training and education course on the Fundamentals of Repo. You can learn more about the course here:  www.pierpoint-securities-finance.teachable.com and click on my course. It has now been uploaded and is now available. I think you will find it a very informative, complete, and an entertaining version of distanced learning, with my usual humor and my experience sprinkled across some 149 PowerPoint presentations within a new state-of-the-art Teachable system, with hours of my voiceovers, as well as 10 videos, and an exam. The course has international accreditation.  I suspect many companies will subscribe and relieve themselves of the burden of training their people in Repo, and leave it to one of the OG Repo dinosaurs. Lol. But, first, check out my friend, Professor Moorah Choudhry’s, FREE 30-minute Primer on Repo (at the same address), which introduces my course. 

So, I am far from retired from the Securities Finance industry.  I am also consulting with an electronic trading platform, and making headway on providing a large electronic solution for several markets.  Kidwell Consultants, LLC is also available FOR HIRE as a consultant. So, if you need my Securities Financing expertise or access to my vast network of about 9000 clients, call my mobile (646-753-1300), email (jeffkidwell82@gmail.com), or hit me up on LinkedIn.  

My Repo Commentary is posted FREE (it’s actually always been free) on my website:  www.repocommentary.com. It also pops up on LinkedIn, the Global Investors Group (ISF Magazine) website, and on CentralBanks.com as an op-ed. I am interested in entertaining you and taking your mind off the pressures you are under. 

Since its inception in 1982, the Repo Commentary does not represent the views of any of my former firms and reflects only my opinion and includes only publicly available information.  I make a strong effort to attribute any quotes or thoughts that are not my own, I do not make any marketing spiels, and I really am more interested (70-80%) in entertaining you than boring (20-30%) you with too much market info. Feel free, as always, to send me information or pictures, to make it better! 

Holidays or Events (12/16):

  • Barbie and Barney Backlash Day
  • Boston Tea Party Day
  • Day of Reconciliation (South Africa)
  • National Chocolate Covered Anything Day
  • Stupid Toy Day
  • National Day (Bahrain)
  • National Sports Day (Thailand)
  • Victory Day (Bangladesh)
  • Victory Day (India)

Some Famous People Born on (12/16):

  • 1485-Catherine of Aragon, Spanish princess, later queen consort of England
  • 1534-Hans Bol, Flemish artist
  • 1770-Ludwig van Beethoven, composer
  • 1775-Jane Austen, English novelist
  • 1899-Noel Coward, English actor, playwright, and composer
  • 1901-Margaret Mead, American anthropologist and author
  • 1917-Arthur C. Clarke, British science fiction writer
  • 1928-Terry Carter, American actor, director, and producer
  • 1938-Liv Ullmann, Norwegian actress, director and screenwriter
  • 1941-Lesley Stahl, American journalist and actress
  • 1962-William ‘the fridge’ Perry, American football player and wrestler
  • 1963-Benjamin Bratt, American actor and producer
  • 1964-Billy Ripken, American baseball player and sportscaster

Daily Weird Facts:

 In an effort to preserve the language, STAR WARS is being dubbed in Navajo.

Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:

“Sex? Unfortunately, as you get older – and I shouldn’t admit this – there are other things that become more important in your daily life.” Alex Trebek

Currency and Commodity Markets:

Oil prices closed at:

$74.34/barrel on 10/5/18 

$47.66/barrel on 12/23 

$48.63 on 01/07/19 

$52.31/barrel on 01/16 

$55.26/barrel on 2/3 

$55.41/barrel on 2/26

$73.77/barrel on 4/29

$63.28/barrel on 5/17

$54.07/barrel on 6/18

$55.96/barrel on 7/24

$58.31/barrel on 9/10

$53.50/barrel on 10/2

$59.10/barrel on 12/8

$58.81/barrel on 1/17/20

$54.39/barrel on 2/7

$35.92/barrel on 3/11

$27.15/barrel on 3/18

$29.90/barrel on 3/23

$27.43/barrel on 3/27

$24.90/barrel on 4/01

$31.80/barrel on 4/12

$28.31/barrel on 4/17

$20.03/barrel on 4/27

$26.78/barrel on 5/04

$30.39/barrel on 5/09 

$35.69/barrel on 5/20

$39.78/barrel on 6/04

$43.37/barrel on 7/27

$43.17/barrel on 11/9

$45.13/barrel on 11/30

$50.73/barrel on 12/15

Oil prices have rallied back to pre-COVID-19 prices. The price of gasoline at my West Palm Beach station has risen 20 cents higher, at $2.09/gallon. 

One USD versus the Yen was trading at (these are all around Repo Commentary dates):

112.20 on 12/24 

108.60 on 01/07 

109.07 on 01/16 

103.18 on 02/03 

104.86 on 2/25

103.86 on 5/17

102.59 on 6/18

102.43 on 7/24

101.72 on 9/10

102.16 on 10/02

102.96 on 12/06

104.30 on 01/17/20

104.80 on 02/07/20

99.23 on 03/11/20

101.67 on 03/18/20

104.77 on 03/24/20

102.22 on 04/13/20

102.14 on 04/19/20

101.57 on 04/27/20

106.82 on 05/04/20

100.80 on 05/10/20

102.04 on 05/20/20

103.32 on 06/04/20

100.05 on 07/27/20 

105.26 on 11/10/20

104.38 on 11/30/20

103.55 on 12/16/20

One Euro was trading on:

12/24 at $1.1426 

01/07 at $1.1478 

01/16 at $1.1396 

02/03 at $1.2047

02/25 at $1.1955

05/17 at $1.1761

06/18 at $1.1825

07/24 at $1.1740

09/10 at $1.1623

10/02 at $1.1504

12/06 at $1.1688

01/17 at $1.1721

02/07 at $1.1543

03/11 at $1.1937

03/18 at $1.1575

03/24 at $1.1400

04/13 at $1.1523

04/19 at $1.1394

04/27 at $1.1407

05/04 at $1.0903

05/10 at $1.1402

05/20 at $1.1522

06/04 at $1.1795

07/27 at $1.2314

11/10 at $1.1821

11/30 at $1.1925

12/16 at $1.2196

One British Pound was trading on:

12/24 at $1.2655 

01/07 at $1.2770 

01/16 at $1.2880 

02/03 at $1.3758

02/25 at $1.3728

05/17 at $1.3427

06/18 at $1.3157

07/24 at $1.3070

09/10 at $1.2959

10/02 at $1.2882

12/06 at $1.3819

01/17 at $1.3753

02/07 at $1.3574

03/11 at $1.354

03/18 at $1.2665

03/24 at $1.2231

04/13 at $1.3143

04/19 at $1.3058

04/27 at $1.3052

05/04 at $1.2435

05/10 at $1.3005

05/20 at $1.2844

06/04 at $1.3136

07/27 at $1.3458

11/10 at $1.3255

11/30 at $1.3319 

12/16 at $1.3494

One USD versus the CAD at:

1.3442 on 12/24 

1.3297 on 01/07 

1.3255 on 01/16 

1.2492 on 2/03

1.2492 on 2/25

1.2800 on 5/17

1.2740 on 6/18

1.2480 on 7/24

1.2520 on 9/10

1.2560 on 10/02

1.2530 on 12/06

1.2390 on 01/17
1.2640 on 02/07

1.3020 on 03/11 

1.3540 on 03/18

1.3690 on 03/24

1.3250 on 04/13

1.3390 on 04/19

1.3350 on 04/27

1.4090 on 05/04

1.3250 on 05/10

1.3250 on 05/20

1.2850 on 06/04

1.2730 on 07/27

1.3014 on 11/10

1.3000 on 11/30 

1.2752 on 12/16

On 10/02/19, Gold closed at $1498.70/ounce. On 3/11/20 (one day after ‘pandemic’ declared), it closed at $1,641/ounce. On 07/27/20, Gold reached a record $1,944.71/ounce, as investors continued to pour money into the safe-haven. But, as of 11/10/20, it was trading at $1,880.30, having backed off the highs. It has continued to back off those highs, closed on 11/30/20 at 1,774.00. However, here on 12/16/20, gold is back up to $1,858.20.

Bitcoin was trading at (around Repo Commentary Dates):

$8,185.21 on 7/25 

$6,350 on 10/5

$3,774.97 on 12/24/18

$3,7774.97 on 01/07 

$3,598.90 on 01/16 

$3,421.10 on 02/06 

$3,826.44 on 02/26

$8,100.00 on 05/16

$7,215.79 on 05/17

$9,088.59 on 06/18

$11,919.30 on 06/25

$9,790.37 on 07/24

$10,183.90 on 09/10

$8,235.46 on 10/02

$7,470.41 on 12/06
$8,876.87 on 01/17/20

$9,793.18 on 02/07/20

$7,871.60 on 03/11/20

$5,216.64 on 03/18/20

$6,728.03 on 03/24/20

$6,646.60 on 03/27/20

$6,443.44 on 03/31/20

$6,908.13 on 04/12/20

$7,128.45 on 04/19/20

$7,748.29 on 04/27/20

$8,775.36 on 05/04/20

$8,771.73 on 05/10/20

$9,525.54 on 05/20/20

$9,794.46 on 06/04/20

$10,849.00 on 07/27/20

$15,160.90 on 11/10/20

$19,411.50 on 11/30/20

$20,665.10 on 12/16/20

After rebounding in 2019 dramatically since the beginning of the year, although certainly not to its $19,000 high, Bitcoin hit a wall at the beginning of the Summer of 2019, then rallied during the Summer, and tumbled again in Q4, and had rallied in early in 2020.  It then gave up all of those 2020 gains with the COVID-19 contagion. It rallied sharply in the last few weeks before the ‘halving event’ on 5/12/20, its 3rd halving event.  On 3/13/20, it had cratered at $3,867.  But, Bitcoin appears to be replacing Gold as the safe-haven of choice for some investors from the weakening US dollar and risk of rising inflation. There is also growing interest from institutional investors. After sneaking up now again to all-time record territory above $19,000, it broke through to a new record, where it is now. Visa has entered into a partnership with BlockFi to offer a credit card through Evolve Bank & Trust, where consumers can accumulate rewards in Bitcoin, rather than in air miles or cash. This follows an earlier agreement between Visa and Fold to roll out a debit card offering bitcoin-denominated spending rewards. The CBOE Global Markets will bring its cryptocurrency indexes to the Options market in the second half of 2021. Initially, the exchange will focus on 10 or less trading pairs from among the cryptocurrencies with the highest market capitalizations. 

Brexit:

I didn’t expect this section to reappear in the Repo Commentary, but there is news specifically about Brexit.  Europe’s largest truck owner has warned that it could turn away deliveries to the UK, if Brexit will trigger chaos at the border, which in turn would threaten the supply of fresh produce to Great Britain. Reportedly, it could lead to 30 mile-long lines of idling trucks, according to Bloomberg. 

Global Financial News:

Warren Buffett wants more money for small businesses hit by COVID-19. Meanwhile, in a survey by the US Chamber of Commerce and MetLife, nearly two-thirds of small businesses say they have not yet felt the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Some 74% of small business owners want the federal government to offer more financial support. Regulator, Massachusetts Securities Division, is saying that online broker, Robinhood, is not meeting its fiduciary standard for acting in its clients’ best interests and has exposed them to “unnecessary trading risks,” according to the WSJ. Brett Redfearn will step down as Director of the SEC’s trading and markets division at the end of this month, ending his 3-year term. Congress has approved a bill that would double the amount of time to 10 years for the SEC to recover profit obtained through fraud. The provision is buried in a $732 billion Defense authorization bill. The DOJ and FBI have launched a probe into possible fraud and violations of anti-money-laundering regulations at Scandinavian banks SEB, Swedbank, and Danske Bank, according to Swedish media reports and Reuters. Fintech venture, Vestrata, is launched an offer to private banks and wealth managers an integrated platform that focuses on quality service, rather than volume, to increase revenue. High-frequency traders are experimenting with a cable that accelerates data transmission called a hollow-core fiber cable.  It relies on the fact that light travels faster through air than through glass. Vanguard has joined other leading money managers in promoting racial diversity at the Board level by promising to press firms to divulge intentions and strategies and by voting against company directors at annual meetings if they appear to be making insufficient efforts. NYC received $985 million in extra revenue from July 2020 to October 2020, due to the performance by Wall Street banks. Unlike the Global Recession of 2008, the financial-services sector has weathered the COVID-19 pandemic relatively well. 

US Market News:

At levels above the magic 30,000, the Dow is now well above its pre-pandemic peak of 29,569. 

Here are the latest DJIA closes, just to demonstrate the massive volatility:

12/15/20   30,199.31

12/01/20   29,823.92

11/09/20   29,157.97

07/24/20   26,469.89

07/23/20 26,652.33

07/22/20   27,005.84

07/21/20   26,840.40

07/20/20   26,680.87

07/17/20   26,671.95

07/16/20   26,734.71

07/15/20   26,870.10

07/14/20   26,642.59

07/13/20   26,085.80

07/10/20   26,075.30

07/09/20   25,706.09

07/08/20   26,067.28

07/07/20   25,890.18

07/06/20   26,287.03

07/02/20   25,827.36

07/01/20   25,734.97

06/30/20   25,812.88

06/29/20   25,595.80

06/26/20   25,015.55

06/25/20   25,745.60

06/24/20   25,445.94

06/23/20   26,156.10

06/22/20   26,024.96

06/19/20   25,871.46

06/18/20   26,080.10

06/17/20   26,119.61

06/16/20   26,289.98

06/15/20   25,763.16

06/12/20   25,605.54

06/11/20   25,128.17

06/10/20   26,989.99

06/09/20   27,272.30

06/08/20   27,572.44

06/05/20   27,110.98

6/04/20     26,281.82

6/03/20     26,269.89

6/02/20     25,742.65

6/01/20     25,475.02

5/29/20     25,383.11

5/28/20     25,400.64

5/27/20     25,548.27

5/26/20     24,995.11

5/22/20     24,465.16

5/21/20     24,474.12

5/20/20     24,575.90

5/19/20     24,206.86

5/18/20     24,597.37

5/15/20     23,685.42

5/14/20     23,625.34

5/13/20     23,247.57

5/12/20     23,764.76

5/11/20     24,221.99

5/08/20     24,331.32

5/07/20     23,875.89

5/06/20     23,664.64

5/05/20     23,883.09

5/04/20     23,749.76

5/01/20     23,723.69

4/30/20     24,345.72

4/29/20     24,633.86

4/28/20     24,101.55

4/27/20     24,133.78

4/24/20     23,775.27

4/23/20     23,515.26

4/22/20     23,475.82

4/21/20     23,018.88

4/20/20     23,650.44

4/17/20     24,242.49

4/16/20     23,537.68

4/15/20     23,504.35

4/14/20     23,949.76

4/13/20     23,390.77

4/10/20     market closed

4/09/20    23,719.37

4/08/20     23,433.57

4/07/20     22,653.86

4/06/20     22,679.99

4/03/20     21,052.53

4/02/20     21,413.44

4/01/20     20,943.51

3/31/20     21,917.16

3/30/20     22,327.48

3/27/20     21,636.78

3/26/20     22,552.17

3/25/20     21,200.55
3/24/20     20,704.91 

3/23/20    18,591.93

3/20/20    19,173.98

3/19/20    20,087.19

3/18/20     19,898.92 

3/17/20     21,237.38

3/16/20     20,188.52

3/13/20     23,185.62

3/12/20     21,200.62 

3/11/20     23,553.22

3/10/20     25,018.16

3/09/20     23,851.02

3/06/20     25,864.78

3/05/20     26,121.28

3/04/20     27,090.86

3/03/20     25,917.41

3/02/20     26,703.32

2/28/20     25,409.36

2/27/20     25,766.64

2/26/20     26,957.59

2/25/20     27,081.36

2/24/20     27,960.80

2/21/20     28,992.41

2/20/20     29,219.98

2/19/20     29,348.03

2/12/20     29,551.42 record high

S&P 500 has closed on:

10/5/18 at 2,885.58 

12/26/18 at 2,467.70 

01/07/19 at 2,549.69 

01/16/19 at 2,616.10 

02/06/19 at 2,706.53 

02/25/19 at 2,799.34

05/16/19 at 2,876.32

06/18/19 at 2,917.75

07/24/19 at 3,019.56 

09/10/19 at 2,969.04

10/02/19 at 2,906.94 

12/06/19 at 3,145.91

01/17/20 at 3,329.62

02/07/20 at 3,335.27 down 10.51 from new all-time high

03/12/20 at 2,480.64

03/17/20 at 2,529.19

03/23/20 at 2,237.40

03/26/20 at 2,630.07

03/31/20 at 2,584.59

04/09/20 at 2,789.82

04/17/20 at 2,830.88

04/24/20 at 2,854.65

05/08/20 at 2,929.80

05/19/20 at 2,922.35

06/03/20 at 3,130.94

07/24/20 at 3,215.63

11/09/20 at 3,550.50

12/01/20 at 3,662.45

12/15/20 at 3,647.49

S&P has regained everything it lost since 3/11 pandemic announcement, and more, breaking above the high set in early September 2020.  It set a record on 12/8 of 3,702.25, but has backed a little off of that since.  

Nasdaq proposed rules that would require firms listed on the exchange to name 2 or more diverse members to the board, or explain why they haven’t done so. On Tuesday, Nasdaq achieved a record high of 12,595.06. Nasdaq closed on:

10/5/18 at 7,788.45

12/26/18 at 6,554.36

01/07/19 at 6,823.47

01/16/19 at 7,034.70

02/06/19 at 7,263.87

02/25/19 at 7,561.87

05/16/19 at 7,898.05

06/18/19 at 7,953.68

07/24/19 at 8,321.50 

09/10/19 at 8,043.58

10/02/19 at 7,809.22 

12/06/19 at 8,656.07

01/17/20 at 9,388.95

02/07/20 at 9,555.96 down 16.19 from new all-time high 

03/12/20 at 7,201.80

03/17/20 at 7,334.78

03/23/20 at 6,860.67

03/26/20 at 7,797.54

03/31/20 at 7,700.10

04/09/20 at 8,153.58

04/17/20 at 8,650.14

04/27/20 at 8,730.16

05/08/20 at 9,121.32

05/19/20 at 9,185.10

06/04/20 at 9,615.81 don’t look now, but we have set a new record high, above the previous high of 2/07/20!

07/24/20 at 10,363.18 we continue in uncharted territory

11/09/20 at 11,713.78 just off the record high on 11/05/20

12/01/20 at 12,355.11 

12/15/20 at 12.505.06

The US Treasury curve was about as flat as it gets and yields were at historic lows in July 2020. But, ever since, the curve has steepened dramatically!  2year yields have dropped to record lows. 3year yields have dropped to near record lows. 5year yields have inched lower. But, 7year, 10year, and 30year yields are stuck higher.  30year yields have nearly doubled since July. And, the yields on all 3 later maturities have reached yields seen pre-COVID pandemic.

2 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 2.88%

12/18/18 at 2.65%

01/07/19 at 2.53%

01/16/19 at 2.55%

02/06/19 at 2.52%

02/22/19 at 2.48%

05/16/19 at 2.20%

06/18/19 at 1.86%

07/24/19 at 1.83%

09/09/19 at 1.58%

10/01/19 at 1.56%

12/06/19 at 1.61%

01/17/20 at 1.58%

02/06/20 at 1.44%

03/11/20 at 0.50%

03/17/20 at 0.47%

03/23/20 at 0.28% wow!

03/26/20 at 0.30%

03/31/20 at 0.23%

04/09/20 at 0.23%

04/17/20 at 0.20% 

04/27/20 at 0.24%

05/10/20 at 0.16% historic low

05/19/20 at 0.17%

06/03/20 at 0.19%

07/24/20 at 0.14% new historic low

11/09/20 at 0.17%

12/01/20 at 0.17%

12/15/20 at 0.11% wow really low!

3 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 2.99%

12/18/18 at 2.64%

01/07/19 at 2.47% (inverted to 2years)

01/16/19 at 2.53%

02/06/19 at 2.50%

02/22/19 at 2.46%

05/16/19 at 2.15%

06/18/19 at 1.80%

07/24/19 at 1.79%

09/09/19 at 1.52%

10/01/19 at 1.51%

12/06/19 at 1.64%

01/17/20 at 1.58%

02/06/20 at 1.43%

03/11/20 at 0.58%

03/17/20 at 0.54%

03/23/20 at 0.31% wow!

03/26/20 at 0.36%

03/31/20 at 0.29%

04/09/20 at 0.29%

04/17/20 at 0.26%

04/27/20 at 0.29%

05/10/20 at 0.21%

05/19/20 at 0.22%

06/03/20 at 0.26%

07/24/20 at 0.17% wow!

11/09/20 at 0.25%

12/01/20 at 0.22%

12/15/20 at 0.18% wow!

5 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.07%

12/18/18 at 2.65%

01/07/19 at 2.49%

01/16/19 at 2.54%

02/06/19 at 2.51%

02/22/19 at 2.47%

05/16/19 at 2.18%

06/18/19 at 1.83%

07/24/19 at 1.82%

09/09/19 at 1.49%

10/01/19 at 1.51%

12/06/19 at 1.67%

01/17/20 at 1.63%

02/07/20 at 1.45%

03/11/20 at 0.66%

03/17/20 at 0.56%

03/23/20 at 0.38% 

03/26/20 at 0.51%

03/31/20 at 0.37%

04/09/20 at 0.41%

04/17/20 at 0.36%

04/27/20 at 0.41%

05/10/20 at 0.33%

05/19/20 at 0.35%

06/03/20 at 0.38%

07/24/20 at 0.27% wow!

11/09/20 at 0.44%

12/01/20 at 0.42%

12/15/20 at 0.37%

7 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.18%

12/18/18 at 2.74%

01/07/19 at 2.60%

01/16/19 at 2.62%

02/06/19 at 2.59%

02/22/19 at 2.55%

05/16/19 at 2.28%

06/18/19 at 1.93%

07/24/19 at 1.93%

09/09/19 at 1.57%

10/01/19 at 1.59%

12/06/19 at 1.78%

01/17/20 at 1.74%

02/06/20 at 1.56%

03/11/20 at 0.78%

03/17/20 at 0.91%

03/23/20 at 0.63% 

03/26/20 at 0.72%

03/31/20 at 0.55%

04/09/20 at 0.60%

04/17/20 at 0.53%

04/27/20 at 0.56%

05/10/20 at 0.53%

05/19/20 at 0.54%

06/03/20 at 0.59%

07/24/20 at 0.44%

11/09/20 at 0.70% back to near pre-COVID level

12/01/20 at 0.68%

12/15/20 at 0.64%

10 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.23%

12/18/18 at 2.82%

01/07/19 at 2.70%

01/16/19 at 2.73%

02/06/19 at 2.70%

02/22/19 at 2.65%

05/16/19 at 2.40%

06/18/19 at 2.06%

07/24/19 at 2.05%

09/09/19 at 1.83%

10/01/19 at 1.65% dramatic drop in one month!

12/06/19 at 1.84% dramatic rise in two months!

01/17/20 at 1.84%

02/06/20 at 1.65% and back down again!

03/11/20 at 0.82%

03/17/20 at 1.02% and back up again

03/23/20 at 0.76% and back down again

03/26/20 at 0.83%

03/31/20 at 0.70%

04/09/20 at 0.73%

04/17/20 at 0.65%

04/27/20 at 0.67%

05/10/20 at 0.69%

05/19/20 at 0.70%

06/03/20 at 0.77%

07/24/20 at 0.59%

11/09/20 at 0.96% back to pre-COVID level

12/01/20 at 0.92%

12/15/20 at 0.92%

30 YEAR BONDS closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.40%

12/18/18 at 3.07%

01/07/19 at 2.99%

01/16/19 at 3.07%

02/06/19 at 3.03%
02/22/19 at 3.02%

05/16/19 at 2.84%

06/18/19 at 2.55%

07/24/19 at 2.58%

09/10/19 at 2.11%

10/01/19 at 2.11%

12/06/19 at 2.29%

01/17/20 at 2.29%

02/06/20 at 2.11%

03/11/20 at 1.30%

03/17/20 at 1.63% way up!

03/23/20 at 1.33% back down

03/26/20 at 1.42%

03/31/20 at 1.35%

04/09/20 at 1.35%

04/17/20 at 1.27%

04/27/20 at 1.29%

05/10/20 at 1.39%

05/19/20 at 1.43%

06/03/20 at 1.56%

07/24/20 at 1.23%

11/09/20 at 1.73% back to pre-COVID level

12/01/20 at 1.66%

12/15/20 at 1.65%

Housing News:

Well, shares of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac plunged Tuesday on the announcement by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that he’s all but ruled out letting them exit US control before he steps down, and become privatized. His decision actually prevents a major policy change that could have risked disrupting the $10 trillion mortgage market. US lenders are pressing lawmakers to extend an accounting waiver that helps them offer more forbearance measure to their customers beyond the 12/31 deadline. 

Repo/Securities Financing News:                              

Okay, I won’t run another ad for it, since I ran it at the top of this Repo Commentary.  Please just take a look at: https://www.pierpoint.info/courses/the-fundamentals-of-repo

My friend, Scott Skyrm, points out that the danger in monetary policy in the US of ZIRP is that the target federal funds rate or repo rates could go NEGATIVE. Now, of course, we are chatting about General Collateral Repo rates, not Specials rates, which have many times traded at negative rates. Specials are specific CUSIPS in certain types of securities that have a completely different risk dynamic and supply/demand characteristics, both from the Primary and Secondary outright markets, along with the Repo Market and Securities Lending market. You can tell, I just wrote a Lesson all about this. Anyway, back in July 2013, as Scott points out, GC Repo Rates (US Treasuries) hit .05%, very close to ZERO, and the Fed began its RRP Program (very similar to my former Direct Repo product, disintermediating the primary dealers and going to their main cash providers). There are a number of reasons why Negative rates would not be good in the US or at least would be very disruptive.  As Scott points out, the Fed has a couple of options to head this off at the pass:

  • Interest on Excess Reserves-the Fed could raise the IOER rate, which would incent banks to move reserves to the Fed and away from Repo, potentially raising repo rates.
  • RRP-the Fed has the ability to raise the Repo rate on this program, even above market repo rates, incenting those cash providers to put their cash with the Fed, rather than other collateral providers, potentially raising repo rates. 

Well, we will find, out what the Fed intends to do today, after the second day of the current FOMC meeting.

In case you have been in a coma or are new to the Securities Financing market, this is broadly a summary of what has happened since the Financial Crisis.  

  • Issuance of US Treasuries was about $10 trillion.
  • The regulators, particularly the Federal Reserve, instituted emergency liquidity programs for each of the different sectors of the money market (CP, Corporate Bonds, Broker/Dealers, GSEs, etc.).  They eventually unwound those many programs.
  • They opened up for a brief time the Discount Window to more participants and without the previous stigma attached, for collateral providers to access cash.
  • They put FNMA and FHLMC into conservatorship. Now, they are trying to privatize them. 
  • They began easing Monetary Policy massively for years.
  • They began Quantitative Easing and built up the Fed’s balance sheet to $4.5 trillion. They added to it by buying more securities every month from the paydowns on their MBS portfolio.
  • They propped up some of the 47 primary broker/dealers, allowed some to fail, and helped others to consolidate/merge. There are now 22 primary dealers.
  • The Repo Market shrunk in the US from about $7 trillion to $3 trillion, before recent increase to about $3.8 trillion (the Fed argues it is $4 trillion now).
  • Regulators instituted mountains of new reforms, especially the 310 new rules of Dodd-Frank, globally to decrease the likelihood of systemic risk in the financial system and to force, particularly the broker/dealers and GSIB banks to hold more capital/reserves for liquidity.
  • The market began looking for alternatives to financing through the fewer and crimped broker/dealers via CCPs, peer-to-peer financing, Sponsored Repo, and electronic trading platforms (some of which I initiated).
  • The Fed began its much hailed RRP program, kind of like a P2P repo, which added over 300 cash providers from the Repo market to finance the Fed’s balance sheet and provide ‘liquidity’ for those cash providers. Of course, that didn’t help the Primary Dealers, who were using those cash providers to finance their own balance sheets. 
  • The Fed stopped QE and began reducing their balance sheet down to $2.5 trillion.
  • The US Treasury began ramping up issuance to the tune of about $1 trillion more, which is funneled through the 24 primary broker/dealers and the central banks.
  • The Fed began tightening monetary policy and tinkering with new measures of repo rates and LIBOR replacement.  They also began tinkering with the Interest on Excess Reserves (IOER) from banks and credit unions, to try to create higher reserves.
  • COVID-19 pandemic hit. The Fed did an about-face and began easing monetary policy immediately. They also went back to doing daily System RPs and Term RPs with the primary dealers.  They had also lowered IOER.  They now have raised IOER. 
  • The Fed effectively reinstated QE, injected at least $500 billion to buy US Treasuries again, $200 billion to buy Agency MBS again, and injected funds into the Dollar Roll market. They have said their buying power is unlimited. They have purchased about $733 billion in securities so far. They actually started QE BEFORE COVID-19, to raise “bank reserves” in Q4 2019. 
  • They then began reinstating specific bailout/backstop programs of 2008, and continue to add to the list.
  • QE purchases are winding down slowly, about $2 billion per day.  That would have QE end sometime in June. Of course, they can always restart QE. Open Market Operations (RP Operations) have continued, although at a less hectic pace.
  • Issuance of US Treasuries hit $23.5 trillion, and is expected to go higher.
  • The Fed rolled out their Main Street Lending Program to mid-market companies. 
  • Basel IV is now coming, after Basel III began being implemented.

Securities Finance Industry Conferences: (most conferences from March on were postponed, cancelled, or made virtual)

  • Deutsche Borse/Clearstream/Securities Lending Times held their annual GFF Summit in Luxembourg, 1/28-1/30/20, which I attended two years ago.
  • IMN 26th Beneficial Owners International Securities Finance conference will be held in Fort Lauderdale, FL on 2/12-2/13/20. I was the Chairperson in 2019 and will be a moderator this year.  That has been my last Repo conference so far this year.
  • iMoneyNet/Informa annual MMExpo, after the merger.  I have spoken at this one several times.
  • PASLA/RMA 17th annual Conference on Asian Securities Lending.
  • GIOA 16th annual conference. I have spoken (and sung) at this one. 
  • Crane Data annual Bond Fund Symposium.
  • IHS Markit annual Securities Finance Forum.  
  • Finadium 4th annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference in NYC.  I’ve spoken and sponsored this one.
  • GFOA gigantic 114th (wow!) annual conference.  I have attended this one in the past and manned one of 250 booths.
  • IMN/AFME annual Global Bank ABS (West) conference.
  • Worldwide Business Research annual Fixed Income Leaders USA Summit.
  • ISLA 29th Annual Securities Finance and Collateral Management conference.  I have spoken (and sung) at this one before.
  • ICMA/Securities Lending Times annual AGM and conference.
  • Crane Data annual Money Fund Symposium. I have spoken at this conference before.
  • National Association of State Treasurers annual conference.  I’ve spoken and sung at this one.
  • IMN annual European Securities Finance conference.  I’ve attended this before.  
  • Worldwide Business Research annual Fixed Income & FX Leader Summit.
  • IMN annual ABS East conference. I’ve attended this before.
  • Worldwide Business Research Fixed Income Leaders 2020 conference 
  • RMA will hold its 38th annual Conference on Securities Finance and Collateral Management in Amelia Island, FL on October 12-15.  I saw many of you last year in Boca Raton.  It was my 37th RMA I’ve attended. WAS CANCELLED FOR ONLY THE 2nd TIME (FIRST WAS AFTER 9/11/01).
  • Crane Data annual European Money Fund Symposium.    
  • Finadium Investors in Securities Lending Conference Europe.
  • American Financial Professionals (AFP) annual conference.
  • Finadium Rates & Repo conference in New York.  I’ve spoken and sponsored this one.
  • Risk.net annual conference. I’ve chaired this one. 
  • SIFMA annual meeting.
  • GFMA annual Conference on Sustainable Finance will be held virtually on 12/3/20.
  • FIS is holding a Webinar on trends in Securities Finance on 12/9/20. 

Federal Reserve News:

The Fed Funds rate, which is still the target rate of Federal Reserve monetary policy and changes to which are made by and announced by the FOMC at regularly scheduled meetings, is currently set at 0.00-0.25% (remember, the Fed has been using a target ‘range’ for a while). It has actually been trading closer to 0.035% lately. The Federal Reserve posts an Effective Fed Funds Rate (EFFR).  The Overnight Bank Funding Rate (OBFR), is also published by the NY Fed to capture the volume-weighted median of overnight federal funds transactions, Eurodollar transactions, and the domestic deposits reported by banks.  

The next FOMC meetings (and they are all two-day meetings so these are the second day, when they actually announce) are: 12/16/20. However, as we saw on 3/3/20, the FOMC can call emergency meetings at any time, even on weekends, especially during the pandemic crisis we are facing now.  For 2021, the Fed announced FOMC meetings for: 01/27/21, 03/17/21, 04/28/21, 06/16/21, 07/28/21, 09/22/21, 11/03/21, and 12/15/21. All of the meetings are two-day meetings. I have listed the 2nd day.

The Federal Reserve’s Reverse Repo Facility (RRP), which has over 300 approved participants (mostly banks, GSEs, and MMFs) is used as a tool by the Federal Reserve, along with its Fed Funds target-setting monetary policy, and IOER for depository institutions, to help control short-term interest rates. The Fed is currently only repoing out US Treasuries from its portfolio and typically only Overnight.

At the 11/05/20 FOMC meeting, the Fed kept interest rate target near 0% and said the economy is still well below pre-pandemic levels, despite certain markets moving to pre-pandemic levels or even record levels. As I said in the last Repo Commentary, with a change in Administration, a political fight is brewing, according to the NY Times, over whether to extend critical programs that the Federal Reserve implemented in March and April, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those programs are set to expire on 12/31/20. It is unclear whether President Trump’s administration, Fed Chair Jerome Powell, or Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin, have decided if they will continue the programs.

In today’s FOMC statement, we look for what the Fed will adjust to keep GC Repo rates from going negative, which could lead to other problems. We also will see what they intend to do about large-scale buying of US Treasuries (continuing QE 4 or 5, whoever is counting), what the economic outlook is, and if there is a plan for any other emergency lending facilities. 

Earthquakes and Volcanoes:

Here are the latest significant earthquakes over the last couple of weeks.  It’s been pretty quiet:

4.4 12/14 SSE of Waimea, Hawaii

6.1 12/10 E of Yilan, Taiwan

6.1 12/06 E of Iquique, Chile

3.6 12/06 SSW of Warner Springs, CA

4.4 12/06 W of Lakeport, CA

3.6 12/05 WSW of Aguanga, CA

6.4 12/01 ESE of Nikolski, AK

Weather:

West Palm Beach suffered a two-day cold spell that brought temps fortunately down to the 50s. But, that has given way to hot and humid, near record, 80s. Up North, things are a little different. A major winter storm has raced across the Midwest and is now eyeing the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, and expected to bring a great deal of snow to the area and snarl travel. It will be wet snow, so authorities expect many downed lines and power outages. Further South, in NC and VA, freezing rain and ice are a concern. Japan just had a record snowfall. Many records have been broken, including Fujiwara, which saw 176cm of snow in just 48 hours.

The Atlantic Hurricane Season began June 1st and ended November 30th. According to Accuweather, the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was expected to have a more-active-than-normal season. They expected about 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 4 of them major hurricanes.  CSU was predicting an above-average hurricane season in the Atlantic for 2020, with the likely absence of El Nino. Tropical and subtropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures are higher than normal, which tends to promote active hurricane seasons. Consequently, CSU predicted 16 named storms in the Atlantic, with 8 to become Hurricanes, and 4 to reach Category 3 or above strength.  

It turns out that they were both wrong, and it has become the record worst or most active tropical cyclone season ever in the Atlantic. There have now been 30 tropical or subtropical cyclones, 30 named tropical storms, 14 hurricanes, and 6 major hurricanes. There were also 12 US landfalls, which broke the 2016 record of 9. And it is not over yet! There is still tropical activity that has a chance to form into a Tropical Storm or more. 28 named storms was the previous record, held by the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season as the most active, and also only the second hurricane season to have to use the Greek letter storm-naming system, after running out of the assigned names. To put this in perspective, an average Atlantic hurricane season produces only 12 named Tropical Storms, so 2020 was already 250% more active than average. And, it still may not be over!  Since 1900, tropical Atlantic Ocean temperatures have increased by 2 degrees Fahrenheit. There was no El Nino this year in the tropical Pacific Ocean, which usually means that the strong upper-level winds (wind shear) produced did not make it over to the Atlantic Ocean to battle hurricane formation. A La Nina formed late this hurricane season in the Pacific Ocean, which contributed to stronger storms in the latter half of the Atlantic Ocean season. The National Hurricane Center estimates that have only been 37 Category 5 storms in the last 170 years in the Atlantic Ocean. However, we have had 7 Category 5 storms in just the last five years!

The 2019 season had 18 named storms, matching 1969 for the 4th most-lively season in the past 150 years. 

The Pacific Hurricane Season started 5/1/20 and ended 11/1/20. There are no tropical cyclones currently in the Eastern North Pacific or Central North Pacific. 

Sports News:       

MLB:

The 2019 MLB regular season began on 3/28 last year and ended on 9/30 (more than 6 months).  The Washington Nationals beat The Houston Astros in 7 games in The World Series. As these 2 teams played each other in March 2020, in the Spring Training facility that they share and that I sing the National Anthem at, the Spring Training season (and eventually MLB season) ended about 3/15, with the pandemic shutdown. MLB shut down both the Cactus League and Grapefruit League Spring Training about halfway through. Then, MLB cancelled the Minor League seasons for all 3 levels of the Minors. 

MLB finally came to an agreement with the MLBPA, and played a Summer Camp (short Spring Training) leading up to a 60-game, shortened, regular season of the 30 teams still aligned in 6 divisions, and still with AL and NL distinctions, which started 7/23/20. The games were played without fans, but the teams still travelled and didn’t not have the ‘Bubble Format’ of the NHL and NBA. That proved to be a mistake, as many games had to be postponed, doubleheadered, or cancelled for several teams, as COVID-19 outbreaks ran through teams.  This “asterisked regular season” ended on 9/27/20. In the World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Tampa Rays 4 games to 3, to win in an exciting (and rare) 7-game series. 

The COVID-19 pandemic also picked off the fan-favorite Little League World Series on 4/29, when it was cancelled for the first time in its history. It is typically held in August in South Williamsport, PA. 

The MLB owners want to delay the start of 2021 season and have it be only 140 games, not 162.  However, MLB Players Association says that players are planning to start on time, and we have the makings of the same feud were had in 2020.  That feud, which started over the length of the season, moved on to forcing players to pro-rate their salaries downward based on the actual number of games played. Then, owners pressed for more salary concessions beyond that prorating and the final 60-game season wasn’t even fully played for most teams.  The owners appear to be using the pandemic as a way to get out of paying those full salaries for another year. Owners also want players to be vaccinated before beginning Spring Training.  I think that’s a good idea. Boston Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez is back in baseball, now in Australia. 

Golf:

The PGA Tour 2020 season came to a screeching halt in the middle of a tournament in March. The Masters tournament was postponed from April to this past weekend in November. So, the PGA Championship and US Open have already been played. The British Open, to round out the Grand Slam events, was actually cancelled until 2021. The 2020 national championship had to be held in December, this past chilly weekend in Houston, The US Women’s Open, and it was an inspiring tournament, particularly by runner-up Amy Olson, who persevered and led, despite the sad news on Saturday that her father-in-law had died. Lim Kim won the tournament at Champions Golf Club on Monday, with 3 birdies over her final 3 holes, beating Olson by one. Kim became the second non-LPGA member after Sophia Popov to win a major this year. For once, the LPGA did not have to compete for TV ratings with a scheduled PGA Tour event. This week, there is the odd PGA event, PNC Championship, which begins Saturday, and which pairs fathers with sons. Charlie Woods, 11, will play with his father, Tiger Woods. They will play the Langers, the Thomas’s, the Goosens, the Lehmans, the Loves, the Dalys, and others.

NFL:

The 100th NFL season ended last year, in Miami, in an entertaining 31-20 comeback Super Bowl victory for the Kansas City Chiefs over the San Francisco 49ers. The 2020 season began with no preseason games, with teams in their own stadiums, but with limited numbers of fans. Both, the ‘opting out’ of the season (Patriots had the most players opt out, with 8) and COVID-19 contractions, have wreaked havoc on team makeups, coaching staffs, and game results. Some games have been missing several star players, other games have been postponed. I think the NFL made a huge mistake (I know I keep saying it), just like MLB, in not playing in a bubble like the NBA and NHL. I hope the NFL realizes it and at least plays the playoff games in a bubble or two bubbles. 

As of now, in the 15th Week of the 2020 season, the undefeated Steelers (11-0) of two weeks ago, fell to the bad Washington Football Team and then were upended Monday night by the Bills and are now 11-2. Big Ben is looking suddenly old and they haven’t had a running game in six weeks. They have 3 games to fix things before the playoffs. The Chiefs (12-1) just seem to be getting better, maybe even better than the last year’s Super Bowl Champion team, finding ways to win difficult games, when superhuman Mahomes throws 3 interceptions and loses a fumble. The Packers (10-3) have methodically torn teams up with their offense and have the top seed in the NFC. The Bills (10-3) are the real deal in the AFC East and Josh Allen has become a star QB. Coming up right behind the Steelers are the Saints (10-3), but they have been shaky behind QB Taysom Hill and really need QB Drew Brees back. It’s hard to tell which Seahawks (9-4) are going to show up, the one that crushed the Jets or the one that lost to the Giants. The Colts and Rams are also still trying to prove themselves at (9-4). Then, there’s the Tom Brady-led Bucs and the Ravens, both at (8-5). The Browns (9-4), Titans (9-4), Dolphins (8-5), Cards (7-6), and Raiders (7-6) don’t seem to be quite ready for the playoffs yet. The Football Team, Bears, Patriots, and Vikings are still statistically alive for the playoffs. AFC East is led by the Bills, AFC North is led by the Steelers, AFC South is led by the Titans and Colts, and the AFC West is led by the Chiefs. The NFC East is led by the Football Team, the NFC North is led by the Packers, the NFC South is led by the Saints, and the NFC West is led by the Rams and Seahawks. So far, the 0-13 Jets have been eliminated from the Playoffs. The Steelers and Saints have clinched Playoff berths. The Chiefs and Packers each clinched their Division. 

Tennis

The 134th Wimbledon, scheduled for 6/29-7/12 was cancelled for 2020. The NY Post reports that 39-year-old Roger Federer’s tennis future is in doubt after his shocking speech at the Switzerland Sport Awards, after an alarming admission that his body may deny him his return in 2021. He was pushing for a final run at Wimbledon and the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, but says he may have already played his last match. He most recently has been suffering from an ongoing knee injury. He was named Switzerland’s greatest athlete of the past 70 years. The Australian Open is likely to be postponed by “one or two weeks” due to COVID-19 pandemic. ATP Finals champion Daniil Medvedev says that the Australian Open could be “really dangerous” for tennis players. Novak Djokovic reached the semis of the ATP Finals. Medvedev, who stunned No.1 Djokovic in the semis, came from behind to beat Dominic Thiem in the Finals. Thiem had beaten Rafael Nadal.

Olympics

The Summer Olympics, which were to start in July 2020, were postponed until July 2021. This is the first time ever that a Summer Olympics was held on an odd year. The start of WWII in 1939, forced the 1940 Summer Olympics to be delayed a few weeks, and then canceled. The 1944 Olympic Games were also not held.  The Summer Olympics did not begin again until London in 1948. But, they were never postponed. 

The Scripps National Spelling Bee, which had been scheduled for Memorial Day weekend, was cancelled for the first time since 1945. 

NCAA Football:

In the beginning of 2020, LSU played Clemson for the College Football National Championship, and despite being down 17-7 in the 2nd quarter, came roaring back behind Heisman Trophy-winner QB Joe Burrow, and won 42-25. The NCAA announced that all Spring sports were cancelled, including NCAA Spring Football, and that all players in all sports would have another year of eligibility, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day was cancelled, the first time that has ever happened. 

Here is the post-bowls, final AP Top 25 Poll for 2019-2020:

  1. LSU 13-0
  2. Clemson 14-1
  3. Ohio State 13-1
  4. Georgia 12-2
  5. Oregon 12-2
  6. Florida 11-2
  7. Oklahoma 12-2
  8. Alabama 11-2
  9. Penn State 11-2
  10. Minnesota 11-2
  11. Wisconsin 10-4
  12. Notre Dame 11-2
  13. Baylor 11-3
  14. Auburn 9-4
  15. Iowa 10-3
  16. Utah 11-3
  17. Memphis 12-2
  18. Michigan 9-4
  19. Appalachian State 13-1
  20. Navy 11-2
  21. Cincinnati 11-3
  22. Air Force 11-2
  23. Boise State 12-2
  24. UCF 10-3
  25. Texas 8-5

Various college conferences have either said they will only play teams within their conferences in 2020 or have said they won’t play at all. There was a delayed start to the 2020 season, with some conferences delaying their starts by weeks. Some stadiums have had a small number of fans and others have had no fans. Needless to say, homefield advantage has been mostly eliminated, because of the lack of fans. No.6 Florida should have beaten rival LSU, but then, bizarrely, a Gator defensive player ripped a shoe off the Tiger player and threw it 20 yards down the field, which led to a penalty and a 57-yard game-winning field goal for LSU. Gators actually had a chance to tie it in last 30 seconds, but missed their field goal attempt.  That player may never play football again, at the college or NFL level. What a stupid thing to do!!!  Shilo Sanders has transferred from South Carolina to Jackson State, to play for his father, NFL great Deion Sanders. The woman kicker, Sarah Fuller, for Vanderbilt had her college football career end unceremoniously, when the Vanderbilt-Georgia game was cancelled this weekend due to COVID-19. Ohio State actually needed to play a minimum of six games to qualify for the Big Ten Championship Game, let alone the BCS. They managed to play 5 games, but they got an exemption to play Northwestern for the Big 10 championship this weekend. Ironically, that’s the same Northwestern team that just a few years ago was setting the winless consecutive record. Here are is the next to last (penultimate) College Football Playoff Rankings as of 12/15.  The top 5 teams held steady and Iowa State moved up to No.6 to take Florida’s place, as the College Football Playoff committee faces choosing the Final 4, after this week’s conference championship games:

1.          Alabama (10-0)

2.          Notre Dame (10-0)

3.          Clemson (9-1)

4.          Ohio State (5-0)

5.          Texas A&M (7-1)

6.          Iowa State (8-2)

7.          Florida (8-2)

8.          Georgia (7-2)

9.          Cincinnati (8-0)

10.        Oklahoma (7-2)

11.        Indiana (6-1)

12.        Coastal Carolina (11-0)

13.        USC (5-0)

14.        Northwestern (6-1)

15.        North Carolina (8-3)

16.        Iowa (6-2)

17.        BYU (10-1)

18.        Miami (8-2)

19.        Louisiana (9-1)

20.        Texas (6-3)

21.        Oklahoma State (7-3)

22.        NC State (8-3)

23.        Tulsa (6-1)

24.        San Jose State (6-0)

25.        Colorado (4-1)

NCAA Hockey

Near the halfway point of the college hockey season in 2019-2020, analysts were seeing Cornell University (my alma mater) and North Dakota as legitimate national title contenders to be in the Frozen Four. Cornell was ranked No.1 in the nation. That all froze, when the NCAA cancelled the college hockey season due to the COVID-19. The NCAA approved college hockey’s move to 3-on-3 overtime across all levels. 

In 2020-2021 NCAA Hockey, Minnesota is now No.1, BC is No.2, Minnesota-Duluth is No.3, North Dakota is No.4, and Minnesota State is now No.5. Six-ten spots are: Michigan, Clarkson, Denver, St. Cloud State, and UMass.

NCAA Basketball

As teams entered their week of Conference Championship Tournaments in early 2020, prior to the Committee’s decision on the 68 seeds for the National Championship (also known as March Madness), it all came to a halt due to COVID-19.  One after another, conferences cancelled their tournaments and the NCAA cancelled the National Championship, before it ever started, on 3/12. The NCAA did the same with the Women’s Basketball Tournament. 

The 2020-2021 season began in November. We are deep into it now, with no or limited fans in some stadiums, removing most of the home stadium advantage. We are also seeing major impacts to the top teams from COVID-19, causing them to cancel games.  My Michigan State (after beating Notre Dame and Duke), as well as the rest of the Big 10, have been particularly strong at the start.  These are the latest AP Top 25 Rankings is as of 12/16/20:

  1.  Gonzaga (3-0) have had to suspend activities due to COVID-19
  2.  Baylor (4-0) crushed Illinois, but suspended activities due to COVID-19
  3.  Iowa (6-0) crushed UNC and Iowa State
  4.  Kansas (6-1) only loss is to No.1 Gonzaga
  5.  Michigan State (6-0)
  6.  Tennessee (3-0)
  7.  Villanova (5-1)
  8.  West Virginia (6-1) only loss is to No.1 Gonzaga
  9.  Virginia (3-1) have suspended activities due to COVID-19
  10. Houston (4-0) have suspended activities due to COVID-19
  11. Texas (5-1) beat UNC and Indiana
  12. Texas Tech (6-1)
  13. Wisconsin (5-1)
  14. Ohio State (5-0)
  15. Missouri (5-0)
  16. Creighton (4-2)
  17. Illinois (5-2)
  18. Rutgers (5-0)
  19. Duke (2-2)
  20. UNC (4-2)
  21. San Diego State (5-0)
  22. FSU (4-0)
  23. Louisville (4-0)
  24. Michigan (6-0)
  25. Saint Louis (5-0)

NHL:

Last season (2019) ended in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals on 6/12/19, when the St. Louis Blues beat my Bruins 4-3 in the Finals. The puck dropped on this asterisk season on 10/2/19. Then it all ended about 70 of 82 games into the regular season. On 5/28, in a very unusual move, the NHL concluded the 2019-2020 regular season and awarded my Boston Bruins with the Presidents’ Trophy (for having the best record), which is typically a curse for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for that team. The Bruins also received the William M. Jennings Trophy (both Bruins’ goalies Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak, for best goals-against avg.) and Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy (David Pastrnak for most goals, 48, tied with Alex Ovechkin). Ironically, halfway through the playoffs, Tuukka Rask suddenly announced that he was leaving the Bruins, leaving them with just their No.2 goalie. Seattle will finally get a new NHL team in 2021-2022 season, the Seattle Kraken. 

The puck dropped (again) to conclude this season on 8/1/20. The teams played in the modified playoffs in two bubble arenas in Toronto and Edmonton, without fans. The Stanley Cup was won by the Tampa Bay Lightning (who ousted my Bruins due to the curse) over the Dallas Stars, 4 games to 2. The Finals were held in the Edmonton bubble, without fans.

The US Hockey League has been managing its 2020-2021 schedule that started in November, although with some game postponements, without using a bubble or any league-wide breaks so far. They have relied on detailed planning and flexibility. The NHL plans to begin the new season in mid-January.  The Penguins have decided to play in their own building and travel only for Division games. The NHL is considering having just 4 NHL divisions to align teams for less travelling.  

NBA:

This year, the NBA season did not start until 10/22/19, 18 days later than last year. We were nearing the playoffs, when the pandemic shut the regular season down, with just a little over a month left. Late 6/4/20, the NBA reportedly approved a 22-team format to restart the season in the Summer. All games were played at the three venues at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fl, starting 7/31. The modified playoff format for this asterisk season began on 10/12. In the end, the Miami Heat lost the Championship to the LA Lakers. 

Giannis Antetokounmpo has signed with the Milwaukee Bucks for 5years/$228 million. James Harden trade rumors continue to dominate the NBA preseason. However, he is contractually obligated to play for the Rockets. That’s going to be awkward. Payton Pritchard looks good in his Celtics debut. 

Horse Racing:

For the first time since WWII, the Kentucky Derby was postponed from 5/2/20. It was run on 9/5/20, Labor Day weekend. The Preakness Stakes was moved from 5/16/20 to 10/3/20. The Belmont Stakes was shifted from 6/6 to 6/20. So, the 3rdleg of the Triple Crown became the 1st leg, the 1st leg became the 2nd leg, and the 2nd leg became the 3rd leg. It was awfully confusing and all the races were held without fans. Tiz the Law won the Belmont, but Authentic beat him in the Kentucky Derby, and the Preakness was won in an upset by a filly, Swiss Skydiver. 

Racing:

NASCAR began the 2020 season with 4 races at Daytona, followed by 3 scheduled races, the last on 3/8/20. But, then the pandemic shut everything down, wiping out the next 7 scheduled races.  The season finally restarted at Darlington Raceway on 5/17. The race was run without fans in the stands. NASCAR is making every effort to get as many of the originally schedule races in to the abbreviated season that had been postponed. Some races will be cancelled.

In the NASCAR Cup Series of 2019, Kyle Busch won in the last race at Homestead.  In 2018, the winner was Joey Logano, who beat Martin Truex Jr. in the final 15 laps of the final race at Homestead.  Truex Jr. won the crown in 2017.  The 2020 regular season will begin in February with the Daytona 500. Here is the complete (updated) schedule of races for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup in 2020 and the results. You will notice that, after 3/8/20, some races had to be postponed, some had to be cancelled, and some had to be replaced by other races. Also, NASCAR snuck in a lot more races in-between the typical Sunday races. In addition, NASCAR was the first professional sport to allow spectators back during the COVID-19 epidemic: 

2/16 Daytona 500 (postponed by rain to 2/17)-winner Erik Jones

2/23 Las Vegas, Jiffy Lube Pennzoil 400-winner Joey Logano

3/1 Auto Club 400-winner Alex Bowman

3/8 Phoenix, FanShield 500-Joey Logano

3/15 Atlanta, Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500-POSTPONED

3/22 Homestead, Dixie Vodka 400-POSTPONED

3/29 Texas, O’Reilly Auto Parts 500-POSTPONED

4/5 Bristol, Food City 500-CANCELLED

4/19 Richmond, Toyota Owners 400-POSTPONED

4/26 Talladega, GEICO 500-POSTPONED

5/3 Dover, NASCAR Cup Race at Dover-POSTPONED

5/9 Martinsville, NASCAR Cup Race at Martinsville-POSTPONED

5/16 Charlotte, NASCAR All Star Open-CANCELLED

5/17 Darlington, The Real Heroes 400-winner Kevin Harvick

5/20 Darlington, Toyota 500-winner Denny Hamlin

5/24 Charlotte, Coca-Cola 600 as originally scheduled-winner Brad Keselowski

5/28 Charlotte, Alsco Uniforms 500-winner Chase Elliott

5/31 Kansas, Kansas 400-replaced by NASCAR CUP SERIES Food City Supermarket Heroes 500 at Bristol, which was scheduled for 4/5-winner Brad Keselowski

6/7 Michigan, FireKeepers Casino 400-replaced by Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 in Atlanta, which was scheduled for 3/15, winner Kevin Harvick

6/10 Martinsville, Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville, which was scheduled for 5/9, winner Martin Truex, Jr. 

6/14 Sonoma, Toyota/Save Mart 350-replaced by Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead, Miami, which was scheduled for 3/22-winner Denny Hamlin

6/22 Chicagoland, Chicagoland 400-replaced by GEICO 500 at Talladega, which was scheduled for 4/26-winner Ryan Blaney

6/27 Pocono, inserted race Organics 325 in partnership with Rodale Institute-winner Kevin Harvick

6/27 Pocono, Worry-Free Weather Guarantee 350-as scheduled-winner Denny Hamlin

7/5 Indianapolis, Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400-as scheduled-winner Kevin Harvick

7/12 Kentucky, Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart-as scheduled-winner Cole Custer

7/15 Bristol, NASCAR All-Star Open, inserted race-Matt DiBenedetto

7/15 Bristol, NASCAR All-Star Race, inserted race-Chase Elliott

7/19 New Hampshire, Foxwoods Resort Casino 301, replaced by O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway-winner Austin Dillon

7/23 Super Start Batteries 400, also presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts, inserted race-winner Denny Hamlin

8/2 New Hampshire, Foxwoods Resort Casino 301, added-winner Brad Keselowski

8/8 Michigan, Firekeepers Casino 400-added-winner Kevin Harvick

8/9 Michigan, Consumers Energy 400, as scheduled-winner Kevin Harvick 

8/16 Watkins Glen, Go Bowling at The Glen-as scheduled-winner Chase Elliott

8/23 Dover, Drydene 400-as scheduled-winner Kevin Harvick

8/29 Daytona, Coke Zero Sugar 400-as scheduled-winner William Bryon

PLAYOFFS:

9/6 Darlington, Southern 500-winner Kevin Harvick

9/12 Richmond, Federated Auto Parts 400-Brad Keselowski

9/19 Bristol, Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race-Kevin Harvick

9/27 Las Vegas, South Point 400-Kurt Busch

10/4 Talladega, Alabama 500-Denny Hamlin

10/11 Charlotte, Bank of America ROVAL 400-Chase Elliott

10/18 Kansas, Hollywood Casino 400-Joey Logano

10/25 Texas, Texas 500-Kyle Busch

11/1 Martinsville, NASCAR Cup Fall Race-Chase Elliott

11/8 Phoenix, NASCAR Cup Series Championship-won by Chase Elliott. His dad, Bill Elliott, won the championship in 1988. They became the third father-son duo to win a title, joining the Petty’s (Lee and Richard) and Jarrett’s (Ned and Dale)

Formula One began with F1 Car Launch Dates for the various teams from 2/12 through 2/15 for Renault, Racing Point, McLaren, and Ferrari.  That was followed by the Pre-Season Testing schedule.  The opening of the season coincided with the COVID-19 lockdown, and the Australia Grand Prix was about to run, and FIA announced that the season would be delayed at least until the 5/3 Dutch Grand Prix.  It announced a number of race postponements. F1 will have an abbreviated 19 race season (instead of the record 22-race season planned), when it begins. The reports were that they were thinking about 7/5 as a start date, and that was good intel.  There will likely be no summer break and they anticipate that the season end date will extend beyond the original end date of 11/27-29. So, we lost the Australian GP, Bahrain GP, Vietnamese GP, Chinese GP, and Canadian GP. The season began on 7/5/20 with the Austrian GP. Here is the NEW 2020 schedule and results:

7/5/20       Austrian GP-winner V.Bottas

7/12/20     Steiermark GP-winner L.Hamilton

7/19/20     Hungarian GP-winner L.Hamilton

8/2/20       British GP-winner L.Hamilton

8/9/20       70th Anniversary GP-Verstappen

8/15/20     Spanish GP-L.Hamilton

8/30/20     Belgian GP-L.Hamilton

9/6/20       Italian GP-Gasly

9/13/20     Tuscan GP-L.Hamilton

9/27/20     Russian GP-L.Hamilton

10/25/20   Portugal GP-L.Hamilton

11/1/20     Italy GP-L.Hamilton

11/15/20   Turkey GP

11/29/20   Abu Dhabi GP

Here is the IndyCar Racing circuit (Indy cars are generally considered faster than F1 car along straight lines, mostly because their races are on oval tracks, while F1 tracks are more intricate, requiring better brakes and more aerodynamic grip than Indy cars).  In 2019, Josef Newgarden came in 8th in the last race, to just edge out Simon Pagenaud for the championship.  COVID-19 pandemic was going to allow only one IndyCar race to run so far this season, St. Petersburg, and it would be without spectators. However, just before the race, IndyCar announced that the rest of the season would be postponed at least until June 14, and several races would be cancelled, including this one. It then announced that all races through April would be cancelled. They have announced some postponements of later races, which I will update as I receive them (notice that IndyCar doubled up on some races on back-to-back days):

3/15 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg-POSTPONED to 10/25

3/22 Circuit of the Americas-CANCELLED

4/5 Grand Prix of Alabama-Takuma Sato-CANCELLED

4/19 Grand Prix at Long Beach-CANCELLED

4/26 AutoNation IndyCar Challenge at Austin, TX-CANCELLED

5/9 GMR Grand Prix of Indianapolis-postponed to 7/4

5/24 104th Indianapolis 500-postponed to 8/23

5/30 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 1-CANCELLED

5/31 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 2-CANCELLED

6/6 Genesys 600 at Texas Grand Prix-This race is expected to be run without spectators in a shortened 300 miles-winner Scott Dixon

6/21 Rev Group Grand Prix at Road America-POSTPONED

6/27 Indy Richmond 300-CANCELLED

7/4    GMR Grand Prix, Indianapolis (postponed from 5/9)-winner Scott Dixon

7/11 Rev Group GP at Road America-Race 1-winner Scot Dixon

7/12 Honda Indy Toronto-CANCELLED, replaced by Rev Group GP at Road America-Race 2-winner Felix Rosenqvist

7/17 Iowa 300-rescheduled as Grand Prix of Iowa-Race 1-winner Simon Pagenaud

7/18 Grand Prix of Iowa-Race 2, inserted race-winner Josef Newgarden

8/23 Bommarito Automotive Group 500-POSTPONED, replaced by Indianapolis 500, previously scheduled for 5/24-Takuma Soto

8/29 Bommarito Automotive Group 500 race 1-inserted-Scott Dixon

8/30 Bommarito Automotive Group 500 race 2-originally scheduled for 8/23-Josef Newgarden

9/12 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Race 1-inserted-Will Power

9/13 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Race 2-inserted-Colton Herta

9/13 Grand Prix of Portland, POSTPONED one week 

9/19 Firestone Grand Prix at Monterey Race 1, inserted race-

9/20 Firestone Grand Prix at Monterey Race 2, as scheduled-Josef Newgarden

10/2 IndyCar Harvest GP 1 at Indianapolis-ADDED-Josef Newgarden

10/3 IndyCar Harvest GP 2 at Indianapolis-ADDED-Will Power

10/25 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg-ADDED as final race-Josef Newgarden

Scott Dixon was the Championship winner for 2020, edging out defending champion, Josef Newgarden.

In Motorsport, Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia won the World Rally Championship, while Hyundai won the manufacturer’s title. 

Travel News:

The Legoland them park in Florida is planning expansion and new rides next year. The storied 21 Club in midtown Manhattan has closed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but its owners are optimistic about reopening at some point. A Barcelona concert, with 500 fans at a live show without social distancing, is testing the effectiveness of same-day COVID-19 screening at the concert. Empty hotels in some states have become government homes for the homeless.  Two-thirds of England’s citizens have been told to avoid holiday gatherings and travel, due to COVID-19 flare-up. United Airlines will now ask all passengers for Contact-Tracing information, working with the CDC. Royal Caribbean has sold Empress and Majesty of the Seas to an undisclosed buyer in the Asia-Pacific region. Vaccine news have boosted international cruise bookings. Guyana is expanding visitor access with new flights and tours. US State Department is updating Saint Lucia Travel Advisory. Airlines have issued travel waivers ahead of this East Coast winter storm Gail. US, Canada, and Mexico land border restrictions have been extended. In a recent survey, half of US travelers plan to get the COVID-19 vaccine. MSC Cruises has confirmed its Winter 2021-2022 itineraries. Calls are growing louder for Aviation workers to be considered essential workers for vaccination priority. American Airlines has extended it change fee waiver policy into 2021. Pittsburgh International Airport will offer optional COVID-19 testing. Commercial airlines are being used to ship COVID-19 vaccines. Hilton Hotels has hit a milestone with 1 million hotel rooms. Palladium Hotel Group received numerous accolades in 2020. Planet Hollywood Beach Resort Cancun has pushed its grand opening to 2021. Disneyland has launched a COVID-19 health and safety awareness campaign. Disney has also unveiled new details for 2021 Taste of EPCOT International Festival of the Arts. The Travel Corporation is now offering travel protection program with COVID-19 coverage. Amtrak is adding new digital payment options. RV rentals look to thrive in 2021. 

Health News:  

As of this morning (12/16/20), globally, more than 1,640,867 people have died from COVID-19.  More than 73.6 million people have been infected with COVID-19. In the US, confirmed cases of COVID-19 have surpassed 16.7 million people. Of that, US deaths from the pandemic have surpassed 304,589. The US has the most deaths from COVID-19 of any country in the world, followed by Brazil (182,799), India (144,096), Mexico (115,099), and UK (66,537). France and Italy, like the US, are reporting record cases, as COVID-19 continues to ravage Europe. Remember, Dr. Fauci was ridiculed when he predicted 150,000-250,000 deaths in the US from COVID-19, near the beginning of the pandemic. The CDC has reduced the recommended minimum quarantine time for people exposed to the virus. The old standard was 14 days; now, those without symptoms may end quarantine after 7 days with a negative test, or after 10 days without a negative test.  British authorities will hold talks on Christmas COVID-19 rules, after a surge in infections fueled demands from medical experts to stop households from socializing over the holiday. Denmark is extending local lockdowns to the entire country. Italy’s PM is mulling further curbs to slow cases during the season. Here in the US, California has stepped back a phase or two and NYC may get a second full lockdown. 

Kizzmekia Corbett is being praised as the key scientist behind the COVID-19 vaccine. BioNTech-Pfizer’s vaccine was approved by the FDA. Moderna’s vaccine has now also been deemed safe by US regulators, clearing the way for a second COVID-19 vaccine to quickly gain emergency authorization, possible from FDA by Friday. In Europe, agencies will review the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine earlier than planned amid growing pressure to approve it quickly. Meanwhile, China and Russia are reportedly already distributing their versions of vaccine to essential workers.

The 11/01-12/15 Affordable Health Care Act window, to obtain long-term health care insurance, just closed.  

Animal News:

The Federal Reserve has joined the Network of Central Banks and Supervisors for Greening the Financial System, which focuses on mitigating risk from climate change. More than 300 shark and ray species are threatened with extinction, a new report finds. A Florida pelican was caught on video swallowing a whole alligator. As I reported last issue, emotional support animals (other than dogs) have now been grounded by new air travel rules. The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree owl is being released into the wild. Four lions have tested positive for COVID-19 at a Spanish zoo. There is a wild video that shows a Florida man rescuing his small puppy from an alligator in a pond, prying open the gator’s mouth to release the dog. I don’t know if I could do that, probably. An iceberg the size of Delaware is on track to slam into South Atlantic island. A humpback whale was spotted in New York Harbor near the Statue of Liberty. The “world’s loneliest elephant” has arrived at a sanctuary in Cambodia, thanks to help from Cher. A massive 9-pound goldfish was found in a South Carolina lake. A 20-year-old Oregon surfer vows to return to the sea, after a rare shark attack, off the shores of Seaside. His left leg was severely injured as the shark bit so hard he went through the board. He was surfing alone and was lucky that other surfers came to his rescue and applied a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. Oregon has only had 28 shark attacks since 1837. The Maui Pro surfing tournament in Hawaii has just been put on hold, due to a shark attacking a 56-year-old surfer there, on Tuesday, also biting through the board. The attack occurred near Honolua Bay in Hawaii. In contrast, Hawaii has recorded 171 shark attacks since 1837. Florida still is the leader, with 852 shark attacks since 1837.  Here is the Hawaii board:

Entertainment News:

The big news in entertainment is that music icon, Bob Dylan, has sold his entire songwriting catalog of more than 600 songs to Universal in a blockbuster deal for an amount estimated to be greater than $300 million! This is for a guy who can’t read music and signed his first record contract 58 years ago for $100. This is a recent trend of high-profile musicians cashing in on their music catalogs, both young and old. Last week, Stevie Nicks sold a majority stake in her songwriting catalog for an estimated $80 million to Primary Wave Music. Hipgnosis Songs Fund, a British company that has had a rapid rise in just 2 ½ years, recently disclosed that it had spent about $670 million from March to September, acquiring rights to more than 44,000 songs by Blondie, Rick James, Barry Manilow, Chrissie Hynde, and others. Streaming has really helped lift the entire music market, as album/CD sales are down. Publishers in the US collected $3.7 billion in 2019, mostly from streaming. Disney made a shocking announcement at its shareholders’ meeting, detailing many new shows, a dozen new STAR WARS spinoffs, and several Marvel Comics movies. After almost 3 decades since its debut the MIGHTY DUCKS franchise will also be returning with a Disney+ TV series, The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers.” Fans are remembering John Lennon, on the 40th anniversary of his death. Tina Turner says the steps to happiness are: “be kind, be grateful, and forgive.” Country music legend, Charley Pride, has died of COVID-19 complications, at age 86. There is some controversy surrounding this, as the CMA had him do a concert special only a couple of months ago, after which he contracted the disease. He became the first black country music superstar, with 29 No.1 hits and more than 50 songs that reached Top 10 status. Whoopi Goldberg called him “Americana personified.” Actor and bodybuilder, Keith Middlebrook, 52, who played parts in IRON MAN 2, IRON MAN 3, and THOR, has finally achieved stardom, becoming the first person in the US to be charged with a federal crime for peddling a fake cure for COVID-19 and promising big returns for investors. New film, WONDER WOMAN 1984, is soon to be released and the trailer has just come out. The original Wonder Woman, Lynda Carter, and current Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot, will be in this movie. Thousands of French theater and cinema workers are staging a street demonstration in Paris against the prolonged closure of entertainment facilities amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Highwomen won 3 awards at the Americana Honors and Awards and the late John Prine was given the award for Artist of the Year. Nickelodeon is scheduled to air an NFL playoff game, which will include stars like SpongeBob Squarepants running out of the tunnel and commentary from the cast of All That. New Year’s Rockin’ Eve is lining up entertainment acts, including Jennifer Lopez, Cyndi Lauper, Jimmie Allen, Lucy Hale, Ciara, Billy Porter, host Ryan Seacrest, and others. Fashion mogul Peter Nygard has been arrested in Winnipeg, Canada on 9 sex crime charges involving his Bahamas estate. Although initially charged with 9 counts, authorities believe there is a decades-long pattern involving at least dozens of victims in the US. 74 additional women have joined the class-action lawsuit brought by 10 alleged victims, accusing Nygard of rape, sexual assault, and human trafficking. Some authorities have said that this case could be worse than the Jeffrey Epstein case. Despite the popularity of BTS and Blackpink, most K-pop bands have been struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, most artists, except those well-established who can get Internet/Zoom/Facebook/Twitter audiences for remote concerts, are all struggling. Many of my entertainment friends have still not been able to get gigs, partly because their areas may be in more restrictive restaurant and gathering phases and others because restaurants and venues haven’t recouped their losses from this year enough to hire entertainment. I know many friends, especially photographers, who have no graduations, charity balls, weddings, and other public gatherings to entertain at or perform their skills at, leaving them desperate. Australian actor Craig McLachlan has been cleared by a judge of allegations he indecently assaulted his stage co-stars in 2014. Tony-winning choreographer, actress Ann Reinking has died at age 71. A federal Appeals Court has ruled that a lawsuit filed by the Michael Jackson estate over the HBO documentary, Leaving Neverland, about two of the late pop star’s sex abuse accusers can go forward in private arbitration. After ABC’s Big Sky drew Native American criticism for overlooking violence against indigenous women and girls, its producers have set about making changes. DARK KNIGHT and GREASE have just been added to the National Film Registry. Justin Bieber and UK health workers have teamed up for charity song. Spy-turned-novelist, John le Carre, who probed the murky world of spies, has died at age 89. New Orleans stage and screen actor Carol Sutton has died at 76 from complications from COVID-19. Britain’s Prince William thanked pandemic workers at Christmas show in London. The leading pro-China news channel in Taiwan has been taken off air, despite employees and supporters rallying for the cable news channel on Saturday. Rapper Lil Wayne has pleaded guilty to federal weapons charge (in possession on his private plane in Miami in 2019, despite being a convicted felon). MSNBC’s election coverage star, Steve Kornacki, debuted on NBC’s Football Night in America last week and will continue to be a part of the show. Singer FKA twigs has filed a lawsuit alleging that Shia LaBeouf was physically and emotionally abusive during their relationship from 2018 to 2019. Like her mother and father, Blue Ivy Carter is now a Grammy nominee. A lone Utah Senator has blocked national museums for American Latinos and women. Former movie producer, Harvey Weinstein, will remain in a New York prison for now, after his lawyers and prosecutors agreed to postpone efforts to send him to California to face sexual assault charges. The credit card companies, Visa and Mastercard, have decided that they will no longer allow their customers to use the cards to charge for services on the pornographic website Pornhub. Concert trade publication, Pollstar, puts the total lost revenue for the live events industry in 2020 at more than $30 billion, due to the coronavirus pandemic. Award-winning South Korean director Kim Ki-duk has died in Latvia. He won the top award at the Venice Film Festival in 2012, but later faced allegations of trying to force an actress into shooting off-script sexual scenes while making another movie. Sweden’s Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia are expecting their 3rd child.  I am enjoying Disney+’s Mandalorian.Now I have heard the good news, despite many top series being cancelled, Netflix’s Ozark will have another season!  Blake Shelton got engaged to fellow The Voice judge Gwen Stefani over the weekend. 

Technology & Space News:

Hayabusa2 successfully returned samples collected from asteroid 162173 Ryugu to Earth.  EU has revealed its plan to regulate Big Tech, including Facebook, Google, and others. UK is planning tailored set of rules for each tech giant. Also in UK, Ofcom regulator will enforce the online harms law, and can block apps in UK or fine tech giants huge sums if it believed that they failed to protect users. More US government agencies have been hacked and the list of victims is growing. SolarWinds says about 18,000 customers may be affected. Twitter has been fined GBP 400,000 for breaking EU data law, failing to notify the regulator of its 2019 data breach within required time. COVID-19 CONTACT tracing apps can now work on older iPhones. Snapchat drug safety campaign is targeting young people. The suspected hackers tied to the Russian government who were behind a massive cyber-attack on the US also hit an American think tank in Austin, TX, according to Bloomberg. Bridgetown Holdings, the blank-check company, is reportedly considering a potential merger with Indonesia’s e-commerce giant PT Tokopedia. The technical glitches plaguing CD Projekt’s Cyberpunk 2077 game have reduced the value of the company’s founders’ stock by $1 billion and may have shaken the image of the company. IBM bought a Canadian fintech company, which processes some $50 billion per day. Discover executive discussed in an interview that embedding payment facilities in vehicles and the increased use of voice assistants, such as Alexa, are 2 key opportunities for the payments sector. China’s Chang’e-5 Moon mission is set to return with samples of lunar rock and dust. 

US News:

President Trump has still not conceded the 11/3 Presidential Election. President-elect Biden has chosen Pete Buttigieg, the former Presidential candidate to be his Transportation Secretary. On Monday night, Biden used the moment of the Electoral College formalizing his defeat of President Trump to call for unity, according to Bloomberg.  

International News:

Nana Akufo-Addo was re-elected for a second term as President of Ghana. Zdavko Krivokapic took office as PM of Montenegro, become the first independent to hold the post. The farmers’ protest continues in India, against the 3 farm acts which were passed by the Parliament of India in September 2020. The acts have been described as “anti-farmer laws” by many major unions, and feel that it will leave farmers at the “mercy of corporates”. While, the government, thinks the laws will make it effortless for farmers to sell their produce directly to big buyers. The Tigray conflict is an ongoing military battle that began in November 2020 in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia, between the Tigray Regional Government (led by the TPLF) and a military alliance between the Ethiopian National Defense Force and special forces in Afar and Amhara. The conflict stems from new PM Ahmed’s new reforms since 2018 that took away political and economic power from the TPLF, so the TPLF started defying the new orders. The TPLF had been in control for 27 years with its powerful military.  German police have made their 4th arrest over a Dresden jewelry heist. It was a spectacular theft of 18th-century jewels from a Dresden museum last year. The heist of the Green Vault which held about 4,000 objects, most from the treasury of Augustus the Strong of Saxony, which included a 220-lb Canadian gold coin, on loan from Berlin’s Bode Museum. A noun describing social distancing is the Dutch word of the year. It is translated into ‘one-and-a-half-meter-society.’ 2020 never ceases to surprise. Paris mayor is mocking ‘absurd’ fine for hiring too many women. Europeans are being urged to wear masks during family Christmas gatherings. Ten experts are now probing the COVID-19 origins in China’s Wuhan. 14 people were found guilty in 2015 Paris terror attacks (Charlie Hebdo magazine and Jewish supermarket) trial. Dutch prosecutors have found Trump Twitter was hacked. Apparently, Victor Gevers says that he guessed the President’s password, “MAGA2020!”. Police in Peru, disguised as Santa Claus’s and an elf, carried out a drug raid. Dozens of Armenian soldiers were “captured in a raid.” A New South Wales man has been charged with table tennis “corrupt betting.” Nigerian states have shut schools down, after pupils were abducted. An architect is rebuilding Beirut’s homes for free. A man, Jamie Rothwell, has been arrested in the Netherlands on suspicion of firearms and drug offenses, and connection to Cheshire shooting. The Ugandan President has reappointed his son as head of special forces. Rights groups are calling on DR Congo to convict mass murderers. 

Florida:

For the first time since 3/15/20, nearly the start of the pandemic, I have my first singing gig this Friday. I will be performing at Zuccarellis Ristorante in West Palm Beach 12/18 6:30-8:30pm. I am doing half Elvis songs and half Christmas songs in a 28-song Elvis Christmas show. 

Repo Commentary-12/3/20

It is Day 265 (on 12/01) since the official start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the day that the WHO declared it a ‘pandemic’ (3/11/20). Of course, that depends on which conspiracy theories to which you ascribe.

I hope that you and your families are staying healthy and safe. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its literal mortal, economic, and mental toll on millions of people around the world. 

In the last installment of the Repo Commentary (11/10), I wrote about my latest project. It was kind of a work of love, sort of like a book that I always wanted to write, about my 38 years in the Repo & Securities Lending industry.  In conjunction with Pierpoint Financial Consulting and their Finance Academy, I have compiled an 11-week state-of-the-art virtual training and education course on the Fundamentals of Repo. You can learn more about the course here: https://www.pierpoint.info/courses/the-fundamentals-of-repo. It has now been uploaded and is now available. 

So, I am still NOT retired from the Securities Finance industry.  I am also consulting with an electronic trading platform, and making great headway on providing a large electronic solution for several markets.  I am also available FOR HIRE as a consultant. So, if you need my Securities Financing expertise or access to my vast network of about 9000 clients, call my mobile (646-753-1300), email (jeffkidwell82@gmail.com), or hit me up on LinkedIn.  

My Repo Commentary is posted FREE (it’s actually always been free) on my website:  www.repocommentary.com. It also pops up on LinkedIn, the Global Investors Group (ISF Magazine) website, and on CentralBanks.com as an op-ed. I am interested in entertaining you and taking your mind off the pressures you are under. 

Since its inception in 1982, the Repo Commentary does not represent the views of any of my former firms and reflects only my opinion and includes only publicly available information.  I make a strong effort to attribute any quotes or thoughts that are not my own, I do not make any marketing spiels, and I really am more interested (70-80%) in entertaining you than boring (20-30%) you with too much market info. Feel free, as always, to send me information or pictures, to make it better! 

Holidays or Events (12/01):

  • Battle of the Sinop Day (Russia)
  • Damrong Rajanubhab Day (Thailand)
  • First President Day (Kazakhstan)
  • Freedom and Democracy Day (Chad)
  • Great Union Day (the union of Transylvania and Romania in 1918)
  • Military Abolition Day (Costa Rica)
  • National Day (Myanmar)
  • Republic Day (Central African Republic)
  • Restoration of Independence Day (Portugal)
  • Rosa Parks Day (Ohio, Oregon, US)
  • Self-governance Day (Iceland)
  • Teachers’ Day (Panama)
  • World AIDS Day
  • Bifocals at the Monitor Liberation Day
  • Civil Air Patrol Day
  • Day Without Art
  • Eat A Red Apple Day
  • Giving Tuesday
  • National Christmas Lights Day
  • National Pie Day
  • World Trick Shot Day
  • Wear a Dress Day

Last Thursday, in the US (as well as Canada, Brazil, Grenada, Saint Lucia, Liberia, and Leiden Netherlands and Norfolk Island, on different dates), was the Thanksgiving holiday, which was celebrated in England as a secular holiday in the 1500s and carried forth in to the New World as both a secular holiday and a end-of-harvest festival. The modern Federal holiday was created by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, and US financial markets and banks will be closed. It used to be that all stores were closed as well, but each year, the brick and mortar stores keep pushing up Black Friday shopping to early afternoon on Thursday. For the first time, I actually wound up in a Costco on Black Friday. Electronic retail sales for Thanksgiving didn’t even wait for this week. Cyber Monday is normally the Monday after Thanksgiving. I hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving.

Some Famous People Born on (12/01):

  • 1081-Louis VI, French king
  • 1761-Marie Tussaud, French-English sculptor, founded Madame Tussauds Wax Museum
  • 1805-9th Dalai Lama
  • 1847-Julia A. Moore, American poet
  • 1913-Mary Martin, American actress and singer
  • 1924-Masao Horiba, Japanese businessman, founded Horiba
  • 1933-Lou Rawls, American singer-songwriter, producer, and actor
  • 1935-Woody Allen, American actor, director, and screenwriter
  • 1939-Lee Trevino, American golfer and sportscaster
  • 1940-Richard Pryor, American comedian, actor, producer and screenwriter
  • 1945-Bette Midler, American singer-songwriter, actress and producer
  • 1946-Jonathan Katz, American comedian and actor
  • 1948-George Foster, American baseball player and radio host
  • 1949-Pablo Escobar, Colombian drug lord and narcoterrorist
  • 1950-Richard Keith, American actor and drummer
  • 1951-Treat Williams, American actor
  • 1960-Carol Alt, American model and actress
  • 1960-Jane Turner, Australian actress and producer
  • 1966-Larry Walker, Canadian baseball player and coach
  • 1970-Sarah Silverman, American comedian, actress and singer
  • 1986-DeSean Jackson, American football player

Daily Weird Facts:

Latin and Irish have no words for “yes” or “no”.  These words are not easily classified into any of the 8 conventional parts of speech. They are not interjections or adverbs. Sometimes, they are referred to as their own 9th part of speech, sentence words, word sentences, pro-sentences.  

Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:

“Behind every great man is a woman rolling her eyes.”—Jim Carrey

Currency and Commodity Markets:

Oil prices closed at:

$74.34/barrel on 10/5/18 

$47.66/barrel on 12/23 

$48.63 on 01/07/19 

$52.31/barrel on 01/16 

$55.26/barrel on 2/3 

$55.41/barrel on 2/26

$73.77/barrel on 4/29

$63.28/barrel on 5/17

$54.07/barrel on 6/18

$55.96/barrel on 7/24

$58.31/barrel on 9/10

$53.50/barrel on 10/2

$59.10/barrel on 12/8

$58.81/barrel on 1/17/20

$54.39/barrel on 2/7

$35.92/barrel on 3/11

$27.15/barrel on 3/18

$29.90/barrel on 3/23

$27.43/barrel on 3/27

$24.90/barrel on 4/01

$31.80/barrel on 4/12

$28.31/barrel on 4/17

$20.03/barrel on 4/27

$26.78/barrel on 5/04

$30.39/barrel on 5/09 

$35.69/barrel on 5/20

$39.78/barrel on 6/04

$43.37/barrel on 7/27

$43.17/barrel on 11/9

$45.13/barrel on 11/30

Oil prices have rallied back to pre-COVID-19 prices, although still waffling, and nowhere near the highs. It did rally 8.5% on promising COVID-19 vaccine results. Brent markets have rallied to just shy of the 200 day EMA, a major resistance area. UAE oil major ADNOC sees oil demand reaching 105 million Bpd within a decade. Big oil stocks have been soaring this week. The price of gasoline at my West Palm Beach station has been unchanged for some time, at $1.89/gallon. Don’t look now, but oil tanks in America’s important storage hub are filling to the brim again, rapidly approaching levels reached in May after prices crashed. Lack of demand and seasonal maintenance are being cited as the main factors. 

One USD versus the Yen was trading at (these are all around Repo Commentary dates):

112.20 on 12/24 

108.60 on 01/07 

109.07 on 01/16 

103.18 on 02/03 

104.86 on 2/25

103.86 on 5/17

102.59 on 6/18

102.43 on 7/24

101.72 on 9/10

102.16 on 10/02

102.96 on 12/06

104.30 on 01/17/20

104.80 on 02/07/20

99.23 on 03/11/20

101.67 on 03/18/20

104.77 on 03/24/20

102.22 on 04/13/20

102.14 on 04/19/20

101.57 on 04/27/20

106.82 on 05/04/20

100.80 on 05/10/20

102.04 on 05/20/20

103.32 on 06/04/20

100.05 on 07/27/20 

105.26 on 11/10/20

104.38 on 11/30/20

One Euro was trading on:

12/24 at $1.1426 

01/07 at $1.1478 

01/16 at $1.1396 

02/03 at $1.2047

02/25 at $1.1955

05/17 at $1.1761

06/18 at $1.1825

07/24 at $1.1740

09/10 at $1.1623

10/02 at $1.1504

12/06 at $1.1688

01/17 at $1.1721

02/07 at $1.1543

03/11 at $1.1937

03/18 at $1.1575

03/24 at $1.1400

04/13 at $1.1523

04/19 at $1.1394

04/27 at $1.1407

05/04 at $1.0903

05/10 at $1.1402

05/20 at $1.1522

06/04 at $1.1795

07/27 at $1.2314

11/10 at $1.1821

11/30 at $1.1925

One British Pound was trading on:

12/24 at $1.2655 

01/07 at $1.2770 

01/16 at $1.2880 

02/03 at $1.3758

02/25 at $1.3728

05/17 at $1.3427

06/18 at $1.3157

07/24 at $1.3070

09/10 at $1.2959

10/02 at $1.2882

12/06 at $1.3819

01/17 at $1.3753

02/07 at $1.3574

03/11 at $1.354

03/18 at $1.2665

03/24 at $1.2231

04/13 at $1.3143

04/19 at $1.3058

04/27 at $1.3052

05/04 at $1.2435

05/10 at $1.3005

05/20 at $1.2844

06/04 at $1.3136

07/27 at $1.3458

11/10 at $1.3255

11/30 at $1.3319

One USD versus the CAD at:

1.3442 on 12/24 

1.3297 on 01/07 

1.3255 on 01/16 

1.2492 on 2/03

1.2492 on 2/25

1.2800 on 5/17

1.2740 on 6/18

1.2480 on 7/24

1.2520 on 9/10

1.2560 on 10/02

1.2530 on 12/06

1.2390 on 01/17
1.2640 on 02/07

1.3020 on 03/11 

1.3540 on 03/18

1.3690 on 03/24

1.3250 on 04/13

1.3390 on 04/19

1.3350 on 04/27

1.4090 on 05/04

1.3250 on 05/10

1.3250 on 05/20

1.2850 on 06/04

1.2730 on 07/27

1.3014 on 11/10

1.3000 on 11/30 

On 10/02/19, Gold closed at $1498.70/ounce. On 3/11/20 (one day after ‘pandemic’ declared), it closed at $1,641/ounce. On 07/27/20, Gold reached a record $1,944.71/ounce, as investors continued to pour money into the safe-haven. But, as of 11/10/20, it was trading at $1,880.30, having backed off the highs. It has continued to back off those highs, closed on 11/30/20 at 1,774.00.

Bitcoin was trading at (around Repo Commentary Dates):

$8,185.21 on 7/25 

$6,350 on 10/5

$3,774.97 on 12/24/18

$3,7774.97 on 01/07 

$3,598.90 on 01/16 

$3,421.10 on 02/06 

$3,826.44 on 02/26

$8,100.00 on 05/16

$7,215.79 on 05/17

$9,088.59 on 06/18

$11,919.30 on 06/25

$9,790.37 on 07/24

$10,183.90 on 09/10

$8,235.46 on 10/02

$7,470.41 on 12/06
$8,876.87 on 01/17/20

$9,793.18 on 02/07/20

$7,871.60 on 03/11/20

$5,216.64 on 03/18/20

$6,728.03 on 03/24/20

$6,646.60 on 03/27/20

$6,443.44 on 03/31/20

$6,908.13 on 04/12/20

$7,128.45 on 04/19/20

$7,748.29 on 04/27/20

$8,775.36 on 05/04/20

$8,771.73 on 05/10/20

$9,525.54 on 05/20/20

$9,794.46 on 06/04/20

$10,849.00 on 07/27/20

$15,160.90 on 11/10/20

$19,411.50 on 11/30/20

After rebounding in 2019 dramatically since the beginning of the year, although certainly not to its $19,000 high, Bitcoin hit a wall at the beginning of the Summer of 2019, then rallied during the Summer, and tumbled again in Q4, and had rallied in early in 2020.  It then gave up all of those 2020 gains with the COVID-19 contagion. It rallied sharply in the last few weeks before the ‘halving event’ on 5/12/20, its 3rd halving event.  On 3/13/20, it hit $3,867.  Bitcoin appears to be replacing Gold as the safe-haven of choice for some investors from the weakening US dollar and risk of rising inflation. There is also growing interest from institutional investors. It is now again in all-time record territory above $19,000. Visa has entered into a partnership with BlockFi to offer a credit card through Evolve Bank & Trust, where consumers can accumulate rewards in Bitcoin, rather than in air miles or cash. This follows an earlier agreement between Visa and Fold to roll out a debit card offering bitcoin-denominated spending rewards. 

Hershey was behind a massive trade that shook up New York’s cocoa market on 11/19, directly sourcing its beans through ICE futures US Exchange, instead of the physical market, reportedly. The purchases, which sent contracts for December delivery to a record premium over the next contract, were so huge that Hershey had to get special permission from the exchange. 

Global Financial News:

According to the Institute of International Finance, global debt has increased $15 trillion this year to $272 trillion and is expected to set a record of $277 trillion by year-end.  The encouraging news about COVID-19 vaccines is boosting investor optimism about a faster-than-expected economic recovery. Yet, with that recovery, investors appear not to expect inflation to rise. After the US election, investors not only rallied global stock markets, but also started selling 10-year Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS), which are commonly used to hedge against rising inflation. UBS is looking to gain $5 billion in assets, by expanding the My Way digital wealth-management platform. Since launching in May, the hybrid robo-adviser has attracted $1 billion in assets from Swiss clients and has proved to be popular with investors who like a hands-on approach to managing money, according to Reuters. According to a poll by Greenwich Associates, very few traders are likely to return to their trading desks on a daily basis when the COVID-19 pandemic has abated. Only 4% of respondents believed their firms would require traders to work from their office trading desks after the crisis has ended. I predicted this in the Repo Commentary earlier during the pandemic. I thought that remote trading and offices were going to become more of a permanent change to the financial markets, and that companies would find ways to reduce their commercial real estate in large financial hub cities, as they would no longer be needed. I also predicted that this would have a ripple effect on real estate in those financial hub cities, like NYC, particularly at the higher end, for people in the financial industry who no longer would have to live IN the cities. There may be a migration of workers from living in the NYC to living in the suburbs. So, the improvement of technology solutions, remote office accommodations, and the efficient globalization of such, have led to some permanent changes and evolution. One of the things that actually may inhibit some migration to suburbs and may push moves further away, is that some of those suburb states are starting to look at a way of capturing new taxes on that new business being done there. No doubt, NYC is also considering the ramifications of tax revenues leaving the city.  US consumers are more satisfied with regional and community banks than with credit unions this year, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index. However, satisfaction rates for all financial institutions declined, with super-regional banks seeing the biggest decrease. CFTC’s Behnam says that regulators must make sure that ESG products meet sustainability standards and investors are not misled by greenwashing. HSBC’s Quinn is calling on banks to act on climate change. Goldman Sachs is remaining bullish on commodities for 2021. Deutsche Borse is reportedly looking for more acquisitions, after agreeing to acquire 80% of Institutional Shareholder Services for $1.8 billion. Reuters says that the bank has told investors that it is seeking acquisitions worth $1.2 billion to $5.9 billion. The Euro has overtaken the US Dollar as the leading payment currency, with more international payments conducted in Euros for the first time in 7 years, in October, according to the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. The G-20 is warning of risk to pandemic economic recovery. The communique also warns that measures to contain fresh outbreaks could force some countries back into recession. Nasdaq has agreed to pay $2.75 billion for Verafin, which makes software that deters financial crime, in its latest step to diversify its business. SEC’s Clayton says that the rapid acceptance of Bitcoin is being driven by the inefficiencies of today’s conventional payment systems. He also said that Bitcoin probably can’t be regulated as a security. PNC Financial Services Group’s $11.6 billion acquisition of the US operation of Banco Bilbao Vizcaya (BBVA) is the biggest such deal since BB&T’s $28 billion purchase of SunTrust Banks last year. I may prompt an long-expected wave of consolidation of banks on both sides of the Atlantic, and might cause some European banks to reevaluate their US presence. I would think that the regulatory environment would also cause such a reevaluation. China has issued negative-rate debt for the first time ever. Face-to-face Brexit talks have paused after an EU negotiator tested positive for COVID-19. The decision has come at a crucial moment, with the two sides wanting to reach an agreement as early as next week. There are 3 hurdles that remain. Goldman Sachs pledged that it would reclaim the $67 million from 5 former top executives, who were tied to the 1MDB corruption scandal. President-elect Biden’s administration is reportedly nominating two BlackRock executives for key roles on the National Economic Council and at the Treasury Department.  US Banks are seeing a drop in Q3 interest income of 7.2%, due to the pandemic, according to data from the FDIC. Net interest margin also dropped in Q3 to 2.68%, the lowest on record. This year Credit traders are on track to receive 16% increases in compensation, the largest raises likely on Wall Street, according to recruitment firm Options Group. Citigroup has reshuffled its leadership of its equity business, to improve performance against its peers. It wants to be among the top 4 equity trading companies within the next 3 years. Online trading platforms have seen a rise in sign-ups from women, since March. One platform reports a sixfold increase in female customers just this year. HKEx’s sustainability-themed exchange STAGE has launched. The UBS chairman is optimistic about London’s post-Brexit future, basing his rosy view on “the division of Europe is a massive benefit to the City of London because if Europe were united, the impact …of Brexit would be much more.” Shares in London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG) climbed as much as 12.6% yesterday, in response to reports that the EC will allow LSEG’s $27 billion acquisition of Refinitiv. Goldman Sachs has appointed a duo to head Private Wealth Management. FSB’s Randal Quarles says regulators will examine possible disincentives that have deterred banks from tapping capital and liquidity buffers to support lending during the COVID-19 pandemic. I can help there: the word starts with an ‘R’ and ends with an ‘S’!  If you were wondering how that LIBOR replacement project is going and how the transition to SOFR is moving along, the FCA and IBA have just announced intentions to extend the date of cessation for contracts with the most widely used LIBOR term rates, causing further market uncertainty at the prospect of a new timeline. Just kicking the can down the road again…

US Market News:

At 29,887, the Dow was now well above its pre-pandemic peak of 29,569. Here’s some weird stock news: Senator David Perdue, a Georgia Republican, has been the Senate’s most prolific stock trader during his time in office, by himself accounting for nearly one-third of all transactions by Senators in the past six years! Did he do ANY work?

Here are the latest DJIA closes, just to demonstrate the massive volatility:

12/01/20   29,823.92

11/09/20   29,157.97

07/24/20   26,469.89

07/23/20 26,652.33

07/22/20   27,005.84

07/21/20   26,840.40

07/20/20   26,680.87

07/17/20   26,671.95

07/16/20   26,734.71

07/15/20   26,870.10

07/14/20   26,642.59

07/13/20   26,085.80

07/10/20   26,075.30

07/09/20   25,706.09

07/08/20   26,067.28

07/07/20   25,890.18

07/06/20   26,287.03

07/02/20   25,827.36

07/01/20   25,734.97

06/30/20   25,812.88

06/29/20   25,595.80

06/26/20   25,015.55

06/25/20   25,745.60

06/24/20   25,445.94

06/23/20   26,156.10

06/22/20   26,024.96

06/19/20   25,871.46

06/18/20   26,080.10

06/17/20   26,119.61

06/16/20   26,289.98

06/15/20   25,763.16

06/12/20   25,605.54

06/11/20   25,128.17

06/10/20   26,989.99

06/09/20   27,272.30

06/08/20   27,572.44

06/05/20   27,110.98

6/04/20     26,281.82

6/03/20     26,269.89

6/02/20     25,742.65

6/01/20     25,475.02

5/29/20     25,383.11

5/28/20     25,400.64

5/27/20     25,548.27

5/26/20     24,995.11

5/22/20     24,465.16

5/21/20     24,474.12

5/20/20     24,575.90

5/19/20     24,206.86

5/18/20     24,597.37

5/15/20     23,685.42

5/14/20     23,625.34

5/13/20     23,247.57

5/12/20     23,764.76

5/11/20     24,221.99

5/08/20     24,331.32

5/07/20     23,875.89

5/06/20     23,664.64

5/05/20     23,883.09

5/04/20     23,749.76

5/01/20     23,723.69

4/30/20     24,345.72

4/29/20     24,633.86

4/28/20     24,101.55

4/27/20     24,133.78

4/24/20     23,775.27

4/23/20     23,515.26

4/22/20     23,475.82

4/21/20     23,018.88

4/20/20     23,650.44

4/17/20     24,242.49

4/16/20     23,537.68

4/15/20     23,504.35

4/14/20     23,949.76

4/13/20     23,390.77

4/10/20     market closed

4/09/20    23,719.37

4/08/20     23,433.57

4/07/20     22,653.86

4/06/20     22,679.99

4/03/20     21,052.53

4/02/20     21,413.44

4/01/20     20,943.51

3/31/20     21,917.16

3/30/20     22,327.48

3/27/20     21,636.78

3/26/20     22,552.17

3/25/20     21,200.55
3/24/20     20,704.91 

3/23/20    18,591.93

3/20/20    19,173.98

3/19/20    20,087.19

3/18/20     19,898.92 

3/17/20     21,237.38

3/16/20     20,188.52

3/13/20     23,185.62

3/12/20     21,200.62 

3/11/20     23,553.22

3/10/20     25,018.16

3/09/20     23,851.02

3/06/20     25,864.78

3/05/20     26,121.28

3/04/20     27,090.86

3/03/20     25,917.41

3/02/20     26,703.32

2/28/20     25,409.36

2/27/20     25,766.64

2/26/20     26,957.59

2/25/20     27,081.36

2/24/20     27,960.80

2/21/20     28,992.41

2/20/20     29,219.98

2/19/20     29,348.03

2/12/20     29,551.42 record high

S&P 500 has closed on:

10/5/18 at 2,885.58 

12/26/18 at 2,467.70 

01/07/19 at 2,549.69 

01/16/19 at 2,616.10 

02/06/19 at 2,706.53 

02/25/19 at 2,799.34

05/16/19 at 2,876.32

06/18/19 at 2,917.75

07/24/19 at 3,019.56 

09/10/19 at 2,969.04

10/02/19 at 2,906.94 

12/06/19 at 3,145.91

01/17/20 at 3,329.62

02/07/20 at 3,335.27 down 10.51 from new all-time high

03/12/20 at 2,480.64

03/17/20 at 2,529.19

03/23/20 at 2,237.40

03/26/20 at 2,630.07

03/31/20 at 2,584.59

04/09/20 at 2,789.82

04/17/20 at 2,830.88

04/24/20 at 2,854.65

05/08/20 at 2,929.80

05/19/20 at 2,922.35

06/03/20 at 3,130.94

07/24/20 at 3,215.63

11/09/20 at 3,550.50

12/01/20 at 3,662.45

S&P has regained everything it lost since 3/11 pandemic announcement, and more, breaking above the high set in early September 2020. JPMorgan is now calling for S&P 500 to reach 4,000 points by early next year. On Tuesday, S&P 500 achieved a record high of 3,662.45. 

Nasdaq proposed rules that would require firms listed on the exchange to name 2 or more diverse members to the board, or explain why they haven’t done so. On Tuesday, Nasdaq achieved a record high of 12,355.11. Nasdaq closed on:

10/5/18 at 7,788.45

12/26/18 at 6,554.36

01/07/19 at 6,823.47

01/16/19 at 7,034.70

02/06/19 at 7,263.87

02/25/19 at 7,561.87

05/16/19 at 7,898.05

06/18/19 at 7,953.68

07/24/19 at 8,321.50 

09/10/19 at 8,043.58

10/02/19 at 7,809.22 

12/06/19 at 8,656.07

01/17/20 at 9,388.95

02/07/20 at 9,555.96 down 16.19 from new all-time high 

03/12/20 at 7,201.80

03/17/20 at 7,334.78

03/23/20 at 6,860.67

03/26/20 at 7,797.54

03/31/20 at 7,700.10

04/09/20 at 8,153.58

04/17/20 at 8,650.14

04/27/20 at 8,730.16

05/08/20 at 9,121.32

05/19/20 at 9,185.10

06/04/20 at 9,615.81 don’t look now, but we have set a new record high, above the previous high of 2/07/20!

07/24/20 at 10,363.18 we continue in uncharted territory

11/09/20 at 11,713.78 just off the record high on 11/05/20

12/01/20 at 12,355.11 a new record high

The US Treasury curve was about as flat as it gets and yields were at historic lows in July 2020. But, ever since, the curve has steepened dramatically!  2year yields have barely moved. 3year yields have moved a bit higher. 5year yields have moved higher. But, 7year, 10year, and 30year yields have moved much higher, each one more than the shorter one.  30year yields have nearly doubled since July. And, the yields on all 3 later maturities have reached yields seen pre-COVID pandemic.

2 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 2.88%

12/18/18 at 2.65%

01/07/19 at 2.53%

01/16/19 at 2.55%

02/06/19 at 2.52%

02/22/19 at 2.48%

05/16/19 at 2.20%

06/18/19 at 1.86%

07/24/19 at 1.83%

09/09/19 at 1.58%

10/01/19 at 1.56%

12/06/19 at 1.61%

01/17/20 at 1.58%

02/06/20 at 1.44%

03/11/20 at 0.50%

03/17/20 at 0.47%

03/23/20 at 0.28% wow!

03/26/20 at 0.30%

03/31/20 at 0.23%

04/09/20 at 0.23%

04/17/20 at 0.20% 

04/27/20 at 0.24%

05/10/20 at 0.16% historic low

05/19/20 at 0.17%

06/03/20 at 0.19%

07/24/20 at 0.14% new historic low

11/09/20 at 0.17%

12/01/20 at 0.17%

3 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 2.99%

12/18/18 at 2.64%

01/07/19 at 2.47% (inverted to 2years)

01/16/19 at 2.53%

02/06/19 at 2.50%

02/22/19 at 2.46%

05/16/19 at 2.15%

06/18/19 at 1.80%

07/24/19 at 1.79%

09/09/19 at 1.52%

10/01/19 at 1.51%

12/06/19 at 1.64%

01/17/20 at 1.58%

02/06/20 at 1.43%

03/11/20 at 0.58%

03/17/20 at 0.54%

03/23/20 at 0.31% wow!

03/26/20 at 0.36%

03/31/20 at 0.29%

04/09/20 at 0.29%

04/17/20 at 0.26%

04/27/20 at 0.29%

05/10/20 at 0.21%

05/19/20 at 0.22%

06/03/20 at 0.26%

07/24/20 at 0.17% wow!

11/09/20 at 0.25%

12/01/20 at 0.22%

5 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.07%

12/18/18 at 2.65%

01/07/19 at 2.49%

01/16/19 at 2.54%

02/06/19 at 2.51%

02/22/19 at 2.47%

05/16/19 at 2.18%

06/18/19 at 1.83%

07/24/19 at 1.82%

09/09/19 at 1.49%

10/01/19 at 1.51%

12/06/19 at 1.67%

01/17/20 at 1.63%

02/07/20 at 1.45%

03/11/20 at 0.66%

03/17/20 at 0.56%

03/23/20 at 0.38% 

03/26/20 at 0.51%

03/31/20 at 0.37%

04/09/20 at 0.41%

04/17/20 at 0.36%

04/27/20 at 0.41%

05/10/20 at 0.33%

05/19/20 at 0.35%

06/03/20 at 0.38%

07/24/20 at 0.27%

11/09/20 at 0.44%

12/01/20 at 0.42%

7 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.18%

12/18/18 at 2.74%

01/07/19 at 2.60%

01/16/19 at 2.62%

02/06/19 at 2.59%

02/22/19 at 2.55%

05/16/19 at 2.28%

06/18/19 at 1.93%

07/24/19 at 1.93%

09/09/19 at 1.57%

10/01/19 at 1.59%

12/06/19 at 1.78%

01/17/20 at 1.74%

02/06/20 at 1.56%

03/11/20 at 0.78%

03/17/20 at 0.91%

03/23/20 at 0.63% 

03/26/20 at 0.72%

03/31/20 at 0.55%

04/09/20 at 0.60%

04/17/20 at 0.53%

04/27/20 at 0.56%

05/10/20 at 0.53%

05/19/20 at 0.54%

06/03/20 at 0.59%

07/24/20 at 0.44%

11/09/20 at 0.70% back to near pre-COVID level

12/01/20 at 0.68%

10 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.23%

12/18/18 at 2.82%

01/07/19 at 2.70%

01/16/19 at 2.73%

02/06/19 at 2.70%

02/22/19 at 2.65%

05/16/19 at 2.40%

06/18/19 at 2.06%

07/24/19 at 2.05%

09/09/19 at 1.83%

10/01/19 at 1.65% dramatic drop in one month!

12/06/19 at 1.84% dramatic rise in two months!

01/17/20 at 1.84%

02/06/20 at 1.65% and back down again!

03/11/20 at 0.82%

03/17/20 at 1.02% and back up again

03/23/20 at 0.76% and back down again

03/26/20 at 0.83%

03/31/20 at 0.70%

04/09/20 at 0.73%

04/17/20 at 0.65%

04/27/20 at 0.67%

05/10/20 at 0.69%

05/19/20 at 0.70%

06/03/20 at 0.77%

07/24/20 at 0.59%

11/09/20 at 0.96% back to pre-COVID level

12/01/20 at 0.92%

30 YEAR BONDS closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.40%

12/18/18 at 3.07%

01/07/19 at 2.99%

01/16/19 at 3.07%

02/06/19 at 3.03%
02/22/19 at 3.02%

05/16/19 at 2.84%

06/18/19 at 2.55%

07/24/19 at 2.58%

09/10/19 at 2.11%

10/01/19 at 2.11%

12/06/19 at 2.29%

01/17/20 at 2.29%

02/06/20 at 2.11%

03/11/20 at 1.30%

03/17/20 at 1.63% way up!

03/23/20 at 1.33% back down

03/26/20 at 1.42%

03/31/20 at 1.35%

04/09/20 at 1.35%

04/17/20 at 1.27%

04/27/20 at 1.29%

05/10/20 at 1.39%

05/19/20 at 1.43%

06/03/20 at 1.56%

07/24/20 at 1.23%

11/09/20 at 1.73% back to pre-COVID level

12/01/20 at 1.66%

Housing News:

The FHFA has set a $283 billion capital target for a privatized Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to safeguard against losses. That is significantly more than their current $35 billion. This is another step, per FHFA, necessary for responsibly ending the conservatorships of both GSEs. Housing Starts for October were up 4.9%, according to the Commerce Department. Homebuilding Permits remained flat though, maintaining a 13.5-year high. Down payments on single-family homes and condos reached an average of $20,775 in Q3 2020, the highest figure since 2000 and a 69% increase from the $12,325 recorded in Q3 2019, according to Attom Data Solutions. Median loan amounts also climbed to a 20-year high of $275,000. Existing Home Sales rose for the fifth consecutive month, up 4.3%, in October, to reach 6.85 million, the highest point since February 2006. Exceptionally low mortgage rates and the trend for people to move out of large cities amid the COVID-19 pandemic are cited as main factors. That is like a ‘theme’ in this Repo Commentary.

Repo/Securities Financing News:                              

As many of you know, since 2018 I ghost-wrote a book, worked on several conferences, and continued consulting in Repo & Securities Lending, I am really not retired. In my last Repo Commentary, I wrote that I partnered with Roy Zimmerhansl and his Pierpoint Financial Consulting, to develop and teach the curriculum for the Pierpoint Securities Finance Academy “Fundamentals of Repo” 11-week course. I share my 38 years of experience in the industry from basics to complex, and insert my humor and teaching style. I not only have 147 slides, and do all the voiceovers, but I also appear in videos in every lesson, and have created an exam. The course is accredited too. Many firms and individuals are already signing up for this virtual training, the new normal for global education, for several of the courses offered by Pierpoint Securities’ Finance Academy. Please take a look at: https://www.pierpoint.info/courses/the-fundamentals-of-repo

My friend, Scott Skyrm, continues to write about the new 10-year US Treasury being issued (announced on 12/3/20 and auctioned on 12/9/20), after a triple-issued old 10-year note. A triple reissue tends to reduce the ‘specialness’ of an issue in the repo market, despite its use as a hedge for other products. However, a New Issue tends to bring back volatility in the Specials Repo market. It could become very Special, given the shorts established already and its limited size of supply. The New one is already trading volatilely at -.40% to -70% over just the last 3 days. It’s a demand and supply thing, although on two different levels: in the Repo market and in the outright market-primary and secondary. If the issue is bought primarily by investors who do not lend or repo in the Securities Finance market (like the decade-ago debacle on the 10-year note), then the supply could be sharply less, and the issue more Special. The current 10-year has a $108 billion supply and it still trades a little Special, so I wonder if those shorts will reset with the new, much smaller 10-year note. 

In case you have been in a coma or are new to the Securities Financing market, this is broadly a summary of what has happened since the Financial Crisis.  

  • Issuance of US Treasuries was about $10 trillion.
  • The regulators, particularly the Federal Reserve, instituted emergency liquidity programs for each of the different sectors of the money market (CP, Corporate Bonds, Broker/Dealers, GSEs, etc.).  They eventually unwound those many programs.
  • They opened up for a brief time the Discount Window to more participants and without the previous stigma attached, for collateral providers to access cash.
  • They put FNMA and FHLMC into conservatorship. Now, they are trying to privatize them. 
  • They began easing Monetary Policy massively for years.
  • They began Quantitative Easing and built up the Fed’s balance sheet to $4.5 trillion. They added to it by buying more securities every month from the paydowns on their MBS portfolio.
  • They propped up some of the 47 primary broker/dealers, allowed some to fail, and helped others to consolidate/merge. There are now 22 primary dealers.
  • The Repo Market shrunk in the US from about $7 trillion to $3 trillion, before recent increase to about $3.8 trillion (the Fed argues it is $4 trillion now).
  • Regulators instituted mountains of new reforms, especially the 310 new rules of Dodd-Frank, globally to decrease the likelihood of systemic risk in the financial system and to force, particularly the broker/dealers and GSIB banks to hold more capital/reserves for liquidity.
  • The market began looking for alternatives to financing through the fewer and crimped broker/dealers via CCPs, peer-to-peer financing, Sponsored Repo, and electronic trading platforms (some of which I initiated).
  • The Fed began its much hailed RRP program, kind of like a P2P repo, which added over 300 cash providers from the Repo market to finance the Fed’s balance sheet and provide ‘liquidity’ for those cash providers. Of course, that didn’t help the Primary Dealers, who were using those cash providers to finance their own balance sheets. 
  • The Fed stopped QE and began reducing their balance sheet down to $2.5 trillion.
  • The US Treasury began ramping up issuance to the tune of about $1 trillion more, which is funneled through the 24 primary broker/dealers and the central banks.
  • The Fed began tightening monetary policy and tinkering with new measures of repo rates and LIBOR replacement.  They also began tinkering with the Interest on Excess Reserves (IOER) from banks and credit unions, to try to create higher reserves.
  • COVID-19 pandemic hit. The Fed did an about-face and began easing monetary policy immediately. They also went back to doing daily System RPs and Term RPs with the primary dealers.  They had also lowered IOER.  They now have raised IOER. 
  • The Fed effectively reinstated QE, injected at least $500 billion to buy US Treasuries again, $200 billion to buy Agency MBS again, and injected funds into the Dollar Roll market. They have said their buying power is unlimited. They have purchased about $733 billion in securities so far. They actually started QE BEFORE COVID-19, to raise “bank reserves” in Q4 2019. 
  • They then began reinstating specific bailout/backstop programs of 2008, and continue to add to the list.
  • QE purchases are winding down slowly, about $2 billion per day.  That would have QE end sometime in June. Of course, they can always restart QE. Open Market Operations (RP Operations) have continued, although at a less hectic pace.
  • Issuance of US Treasuries hit $23.5 trillion, and is expected to go higher.
  • The Fed rolled out their Main Street Lending Program to mid-market companies. 
  • Basel IV is now coming, after Basel III began being implemented.

Securities Finance Industry Conferences: (most conferences from March on were postponed, cancelled, or made virtual)

  • Deutsche Borse/Clearstream/Securities Lending Times held their annual GFF Summit in Luxembourg, 1/28-1/30/20, which I attended two years ago.
  • IMN 26th Beneficial Owners International Securities Finance conference will be held in Fort Lauderdale, FL on 2/12-2/13/20. I was the Chairperson in 2019 and will be a moderator this year.  That has been my last Repo conference so far this year.
  • iMoneyNet/Informa annual MMExpo, after the merger.  I have spoken at this one several times.
  • PASLA/RMA 17th annual Conference on Asian Securities Lending.
  • GIOA 16th annual conference. I have spoken (and sung) at this one. 
  • Crane Data annual Bond Fund Symposium.
  • IHS Markit annual Securities Finance Forum.  
  • Finadium 4th annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference in NYC.  I’ve spoken and sponsored this one.
  • GFOA gigantic 114th (wow!) annual conference.  I have attended this one in the past and manned one of 250 booths.
  • IMN/AFME annual Global Bank ABS (West) conference.
  • Worldwide Business Research annual Fixed Income Leaders USA Summit.
  • ISLA 29th Annual Securities Finance and Collateral Management conference.  I have spoken (and sung) at this one before.
  • ICMA/Securities Lending Times annual AGM and conference.
  • Crane Data annual Money Fund Symposium. I have spoken at this conference before.
  • National Association of State Treasurers annual conference.  I’ve spoken and sung at this one.
  • IMN annual European Securities Finance conference.  I’ve attended this before.  
  • Worldwide Business Research annual Fixed Income & FX Leader Summit.
  • IMN annual ABS East conference. I’ve attended this before.
  • Worldwide Business Research Fixed Income Leaders 2020 conference 
  • RMA will hold its 38th annual Conference on Securities Finance and Collateral Management in Amelia Island, FL on October 12-15.  I saw many of you last year in Boca Raton.  It was my 37th RMA I’ve attended. WAS CANCELLED FOR ONLY THE 2nd TIME (FIRST WAS AFTER 9/11/01).
  • Crane Data annual European Money Fund Symposium.    
  • Finadium Investors in Securities Lending Conference Europe.
  • American Financial Professionals (AFP) annual conference.
  • Finadium Rates & Repo conference in New York.  I’ve spoken and sponsored this one.
  • Risk.net annual conference. I’ve chaired this one. 
  • SIFMA annual meeting.
  • GFMA annual Conference on Sustainable Finance will be held virtually on 12/3/20.
  • FIS is holding a Webinar on trends in Securities Finance on 12/9/20. 

Federal Reserve News:

The Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) is supposed to be a broad measure of the cost of borrowing cash overnight collateralized by US Treasury securities.  It is also reported by the NY Fed on its website.  It has been controversial and has been considered as the likely replacement for LIBOR.  SOFR includes trades in the Broad General Collateral Rate of Repo plus bilateral Treasury Repo transactions cleared through the DVP services at CCP FICC, ostensibly filtering out issues trading Special.  However, critics (and I am one) say that it only picks up the Offered Side of Repo (not a median), that it only picks up the small amount of DVP transactions cleared at FICC and Triparty Repo done at Bank of NY, ignoring the growing amount of bilateral (non-Triparty) repo being done peer-to-peer, dealer-to-dealer, and client-to-dealer, outside of FICC.   It is a good representation of where Money Funds (except for a few savvy ones who trade peer-to-peer) are paid on their cash versus US Treasuries in Repo each day by broker/dealers.  It almost completely ignores other sectors, particularly buy-side clients with collateral. My friend Scott Skyrm addressed this recently in his Repo Market Commentary, pointing out that since the beginning of April, GC Repo averaged 4.2bp above SOFR, and that the difference is even greater in the futures contracts (where it increases to 7.2-14.9bp spread, depending on the term.) He agrees with me that SOFR will always be lower than GC Repo, because it is skewed to the offer-side of the market, particularly with the inclusion of the tri-party repo rates. Of course, with Fed Funds, repo rates, and outright US Treasury yields trading near 0%, the actual bp differences have decreased, as there are so few bp to play with. My former colleague/partner/boss, Tom Wipf, pointed out on LinkedIn that Bloomberg now posts a spread adjustment for every LIBOR that is replaced by SOFR, which would be worthwhile following.

The Fed Funds rate, which is still the target rate of Federal Reserve monetary policy and changes to which are made by and announced by the FOMC at regularly scheduled meetings, is currently set at 0.00-0.25% (remember, the Fed has been using a target ‘range’ for a while). The Federal Reserve posts an Effective Fed Funds Rate (EFFR).  The Overnight Bank Funding Rate (OBFR), is also published by the NY Fed to capture the volume-weighted median of overnight federal funds transactions, Eurodollar transactions, and the domestic deposits reported by banks. 

The next FOMC meetings (and they are all two-day meetings so these are the second day, when they actually announce) are: 12/16/20. However, as we saw on 3/3/20, the FOMC can call emergency meetings at any time, even on weekends, especially during the pandemic crisis we are facing now.  For 2021, the Fed announced FOMC meetings for: 01/27/21, 03/17/21, 04/28/21, 06/16/21, 07/28/21, 09/22/21, 11/03/21, and 12/15/21. All of the meetings are two-day meetings. I have listed the 2nd day.

The Federal Reserve’s Reverse Repo Facility (RRP), which has over 300 approved participants (mostly banks, GSEs, and MMFs) is used as a tool by the Federal Reserve, along with its Fed Funds target-setting monetary policy, and IOER for depository institutions, to help control short-term interest rates. The Fed is currently only repoing out US Treasuries from its portfolio and typically only Overnight.

At the 11/05/20 FOMC meeting, the Fed kept interest rate target near 0% and said the economy is still well below pre-pandemic levels, despite certain markets moving to pre-pandemic levels or even record levels. As I said in the last Repo Commentary, with a change in Administration, a political fight is brewing, according to the NY Times, over whether to extend critical programs that the Federal Reserve implemented in March and April, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those programs are set to expire on 12/31/20. It is unclear whether President Trump’s administration, Fed Chair Jerome Powell, or Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin, have decided if they will continue the programs. Well, on 11/19, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin put an end to speculation about this, with an announcement that the 5 Federal Reserve coronavirus relief programs will expire on 12/31/20 and their funds will be left for Congress to reallocate. However, he did request that the 4 emergency credit facilities that are backstopping short-term funding markets, which includes commercial paper and money market mutual funds, be extended for another 90 days. The Federal Reserve’s Chair Powell responded by saying that it “would prefer that the full suite of emergency facilities established during the coronavirus pandemic continue…” (so, all 9 programs). It’s kind of ironic, or prescient, that I’ve been speaking about an unusual distancing or rift between the Fed and US Treasury that began in Q4 2019, when Treasury dramatically increased Reserves in the system, catching the Fed off-guard. The latest Fed Beige Book showed that the US economy is only making marginal headway. Employment openings remain sluggish, some Fed districts report growing concern about loan defaults and bankruptcies, particularly in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors. 

Earthquakes and Volcanoes:

In the interest of getting this 3-day Commentary out, I’m skipping Earthquakes today. Sorry to all of the Earthquake fans.

Weather:

West Palm Beach is in the middle of a two-day cold front (66 degrees yesterday and 72 degrees today), before returning to the 80s and rain. 

The Atlantic Hurricane Season began June 1st and ends November 30th. According to Accuweather, the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was expected to have a more-active-than-normal season. They expected about 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 4 of them major hurricanes.  CSU was predicting an above-average hurricane season in the Atlantic for 2020, with the likely absence of El Nino. Tropical and subtropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures are higher than normal, which tends to promote active hurricane seasons. Consequently, CSU predicted 16 named storms in the Atlantic, with 8 to become Hurricanes, and 4 to reach Category 3 or above strength.  

It turns out that they were both wrong, and it has become the record worst or most active tropical cyclone season ever in the Atlantic. There have now been 30 tropical or subtropical cyclones, 30 named tropical storms, 14 hurricanes, and 6 major hurricanes. There were also 12 US landfalls, which broke the 2016 record of 9. And it is not over yet! There is still tropical activity that has a chance to form into a Tropical Storm or more. 28 named storms was the previous record, held by the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season as the most active, and also only the second hurricane season to have to use the Greek letter storm-naming system, after running out of the assigned names. To put this in perspective, an average Atlantic hurricane season produces only 12 named Tropical Storms, so 2020 was already 250% more active than average. And, it still may not be over!  Since 1900, tropical Atlantic Ocean temperatures have increased by 2 degrees Fahrenheit. There was no El Nino this year in the tropical Pacific Ocean, which usually means that the strong upper-level winds (wind shear) produced did not make it over to the Atlantic Ocean to battle hurricane formation. A La Nina formed late this hurricane season in the Pacific Ocean, which contributed to stronger storms in the latter half of the Atlantic Ocean season. The National Hurricane Center estimates that have only been 37 Category 5 storms in the last 170 years in the Atlantic Ocean. However, we have had 7 Category 5 storms in just the last five years!

The 2019 season had 18 named storms, matching 1969 for the 4th most-lively season in the past 150 years. 

The Pacific Hurricane Season started 5/1/20 and ended 11/1/20. There are no tropical cyclones currently in the Eastern North Pacific or Central North Pacific. 

Sports News:       

MLB:

The 2019 MLB regular season began on 3/28 last year and ended on 9/30 (more than 6 months).  The Washington Nationals beat The Houston Astros in 7 games in The World Series. As these 2 teams played each other in March 2020, in the Spring Training facility that they share and that I sing the National Anthem at, the Spring Training season (and eventually MLB season) ended about 3/15, with the pandemic shutdown. MLB shut down both the Cactus League and Grapefruit League Spring Training about halfway through. Then, MLB cancelled the Minor League seasons for all 3 levels of the Minors. 

MLB finally came to an agreement with the MLBPA, and played a Summer Camp (short Spring Training) leading up to a 60-game, shortened, regular season of the 30 teams still aligned in 6 divisions, and still with AL and NL distinctions, which started 7/23/20. The games were played without fans, but the teams still travelled and didn’t not have the ‘Bubble Format’ of the NHL and NBA. That proved to be a mistake, as many games had to be postponed, doubleheadered, or cancelled for several teams, as COVID-19 outbreaks ran through teams.  This “asterisked regular season” ended on 9/27/20. In the World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Tampa Rays 4 games to 3, to win in an exciting (and rare) 7-game series. 

The COVID-19 pandemic also picked off the fan-favorite Little League World Series on 4/29, when it was cancelled for the first time in its history. It is typically held in August in South Williamsport, PA. 

Golf:

The PGA Tour 2020 season came to a screeching halt in the middle of a tournament in March. The Masters tournament was postponed from April to this past weekend in November. So, the PGA Championship and US Open have already been played. The British Open, to round out the Grand Slam events, was actually cancelled until 2021. Bryson DeChambeau was the favorite at Augusta at 9:1 to win.  He struggled keeping his very long drives near the fairways. The winner was Dustin Johnson, who despite a horrible tournament after COVID-19 delay, in which he missed a cut with a score of 82, he took up where he left off and left the field in the dust, winning the 2020 Masters by 5 strokes.  Tiger Woods, who showed a little flash in the first 2 rounds, wound up 16 strokes back of DJ, not helped by scoring a 10 on a Par 3 on Sunday. Like all the tournaments this year, there were no fans at Augusta. 

NFL:

The 100th NFL season ended last year, in Miami, in an entertaining 31-20 comeback Super Bowl victory for the Kansas City Chiefs over the San Francisco 49ers. The 2020 season began with no preseason games, with teams in their own stadiums, but with limited numbers of fans. Both, the ‘opting out’ of the season (Patriots had the most players opt out, with 8) and COVID-19 contractions, have wreaked havoc on team makeups, coaching staffs, and game results. Some games have been missing several star players, other games have been postponed. I think the NFL made a huge mistake (I know I keep saying it), just like MLB, in not playing in a bubble like the NBA and NHL. I hope the NFL realizes it and at least plays the playoff games in a bubble or two bubbles. The Chiefs, Steelers, and Saints can clinch playoff berths this week. Thanksgiving’s 3 NFL games were even impacted by the virus, as the third game was postponed three times, finally held last night. Seahawks’ WR Josh Gordon has been ‘conditionally’ reinstated by the NFL. I guess that means on condition that he stays out of legal trouble.

As of now, in the 13th Week of the 2020 season, the Bills (8-3) top the AFC East, just a game ahead of the Dolphins. The Jets (0-11) remain the only non-winning team. In the AFC West, the Super-Bowl champion Chiefs (10-1) are cruising, winning their last 6 games, well ahead of second-place Raiders. In the AFC North, the only unbeaten team, the Steelers (11-0) rule the roost, well ahead of the Browns (8-3). In the AFC South, the battle continues between the Colts (7-4) and the Titans (8-3), but now the Titans have the edge. The Jaguars (1-10) have lost 10 games in a row. They are fighting the NY Jets for that coveted No.1 Draft pick. The NFC East is liable to have a non-winning record playoff team this year, as the first place Giants (4-7) are tied with the Football Team from Washington (4-7).  In the NFC West, the Seahawks (8-3) are one game ahead of the Rams (7-4). In the NFC North, the Packers (8-3) have established a comfortable lead over the faltering Bears (5-6), who have lost 5 games in a row and the conundrum Vikings (5-6). In the NFC South, the mighty Saints (9-2), who have won 8 games in a row, even having lost their QB Drew Brees to a collapsed lung and 3 broken ribs, ahead of the Brady-led Bucs (7-5).  The NFL is heading toward a chaotic end to the season, with postponed and cancelled games, as well as incomplete rosters and lack of stadium fans, due to COVID-19. The NFL had to postpone the game between the Steelers and the Ravens 3 times, before finally playing it last night (Wednesday), in which the Steelers won 19-14. On Sunday, the Broncos had to play without any QBs, leading to one of the worst football games ever. Bengals rookie QB Joe Burrow underwent “successful” knee surgery. 

Tennis

The 134th Wimbledon, scheduled for 6/29-7/12 was cancelled for 2020. 

Olympics

The Summer Olympics, which were to start in July 2020, were postponed until July 2021. This is the first time ever that a Summer Olympics was held on an odd year. The start of WWII in 1939, forced the 1940 Summer Olympics to be delayed a few weeks, and then canceled. The 1944 Olympic Games were also not held.  The Summer Olympics did not begin again until London in 1948. But, they were never postponed. 

The Scripps National Spelling Bee, which had been scheduled for Memorial Day weekend, was cancelled for the first time since 1945. 

Fighting

MMA and UFC pretty much continued through the COVID-19 pandemic, with just a few postponements and no fans in the stands. Okay, I admit it. I’m a sucker. I loved Roy Jones Jr. and Mike Tyson in their primes, so I thought it might be interesting to see them at 54 and 51 box again. I paid the $49.95 payperview on Saturday night, and watched Tyson hammer Jones to a draw?  Tyson may still have enough skills to compete at his age, and he definitely still has a ton of power. But, Roy did not look that good and he was clearly out of shape, going up again in weight class, the story of his career. It’s a shame that they may be remembered for 8 round exhibitions like this, instead of their Hall of Fame careers. 

Soccer

All leagues have now reopened but do not have fans in the seats. 

NCAA Football:

In the beginning of 2020, LSU played Clemson for the College Football National Championship, and despite being down 17-7 in the 2nd quarter, came roaring back behind Heisman Trophy-winner QB Joe Burrow, and won 42-25. The NCAA announced that all Spring sports were cancelled, including NCAA Spring Football, and that all players in all sports would have another year of eligibility, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day was cancelled, the first time that has ever happened. 

Here is the post-bowls, final AP Top 25 Poll for 2019-2020:

  1. LSU 13-0
  2. Clemson 14-1
  3. Ohio State 13-1
  4. Georgia 12-2
  5. Oregon 12-2
  6. Florida 11-2
  7. Oklahoma 12-2
  8. Alabama 11-2
  9. Penn State 11-2
  10. Minnesota 11-2
  11. Wisconsin 10-4
  12. Notre Dame 11-2
  13. Baylor 11-3
  14. Auburn 9-4
  15. Iowa 10-3
  16. Utah 11-3
  17. Memphis 12-2
  18. Michigan 9-4
  19. Appalachian State 13-1
  20. Navy 11-2
  21. Cincinnati 11-3
  22. Air Force 11-2
  23. Boise State 12-2
  24. UCF 10-3
  25. Texas 8-5

Various college conferences have either said they will only play teams within their conferences in 2020 or have said they won’t play at all. There was a delayed start to the 2020 season, with some conferences delaying their starts by weeks. Some stadiums have had a small number of fans and others have had no fans. Needless to say, homefield advantage has been mostly eliminated, because of the lack of fans. Here are the current 2020-2021 AP Top 25 College Football Rankings (which are a little weird because of some conferences’ late starts, like Big Ten, and COVID-19 cancelled games) as of 11/20. You’ll note that some teams didn’t play this past weekend and some did. College football has been severely impacted by COVID-19, not only in not having fans in the stands, but especially because of players who were sick and many games that were cancelled or postponed. Some states now will impact college football, as counties like Santa Clara in California has now banned all contact sports for the next 3 weeks.  That means that the NFL 49ers can’t play home games, and will have to play near Phoenix (where ironically the case numbers are higher than in Santa Clara). It may have a huge impact on Ohio State, who was ranked as high as No.2 a few weeks ago, but who is in danger of not making the college playoffs because it has canceled so many games this season. Ohio State actually needs to play a minimum of six games to qualify for the Big Ten Championship Game, let alone the BCS. Like I’ve said, it’s hard to judge just how good a 3-0 team is versus a 10-0 team. The SEC has no plans to cancel 12/12 games as the Commissioner questions ACC’s decision to aid playoff pushes. As the once mighty Michigan Wolverines falter again, one wonders how long they will pay coach Jim Harbaugh $7 million plus per year. Plus, my Michigan State Spartans continue to lose to lousy teams, but beat another high ranked team in Northwestern this past Saturday. The two teams, Spartans and Buckeyes face each other this Saturday.  Here are the latest AP Top 25, for what that’s worth in this pandemic environment, going into Week 14 (not much change in positions):

1.          Alabama (8-0)

2.          Notre Dame (9-0)

3.          Ohio State (4-0)

4.          Clemson (8-1)

5.          Texas A&M (6-1)

6.          Florida (7-1)

7.          Cincinnati (8-0)

8.          BYU (9-0)

9.          Miami (7-1) supplanted Indiana

10.        Indiana (5-1)

11.        Georgia (6-2) Wisconsin fell 

12.        Iowa State (7-2)

13.        Oklahoma (6-2) Oregon dropped to No.21

14.        Coastal Carolina (9-0)

15.        Marshall (7-0) amazing story that reminds me of their tragic history

16.        Northwestern (5-1) dropped 5 places after loss to Michigan State

17.        USC (3-0)

18.        Wisconsin (2-1) fell 7 places

19.        Oklahoma State (6-2)

20.        Louisiana (8-1)

21.        Oregon (3-1)

22.        Tulsa (5-1)

23.        Washington (3-0)

24.        Iowa (4-2)

25.        Liberty (9-1)

NCAA Hockey

Near the halfway point of the college hockey season in 2020, analysts were seeing Cornell University (my alma mater) and North Dakota as legitimate national title contenders to be in the Frozen Four. Cornell was ranked No.1 in the nation. That all froze, when the NCAA cancelled the college hockey season due to the COVID-19. The NCAA approved college hockey’s move to 3-on-3 overtime across all levels. 

NCAA Basketball

As teams entered their week of Conference Championship Tournaments, prior to the Committee’s decision on the 68 seeds for the National Championship (also known as March Madness), it all came to a halt due to COVID-19.  One after another, conferences cancelled their tournaments and the NCAA cancelled the National Championship, before it ever started, on 3/12. The NCAA did the same with the Women’s Basketball Tournament. Well, the 2020 season started with a roar, although it wasn’t from the fanless seats. We are already 2-3 games into the season, depending on COVID-19 cancellations, and we’ve had some shuffling at the top. My No.8 Michigan State, last night, shocked No.6 Duke (finally), after winning their first 2 games. In fact, the Big Ten is well represented in top of the Rankings.  However, this AP Top 25 Rankings is as of 11/29/20:

  1.  Gonzaga (2-0)
  2.  Baylor (2-0)
  3.  Iowa (2-0)
  4.  Wisconsin (2-0)
  5.  Illinois (3-0)
  6.  Duke (1-0)
  7.  Kansas (1-1)
  8.  Michigan State (2-0)
  9.  Creighton (1-0)
  10. Houston (3-0)
  11. West Virginia (3-0)
  12. Villanova (2-1)
  13. Tennessee (0-0)?
  14. North Carolina (1-0)
  15. Virginia (1-1)
  16. Virginia Tech (3-0)
  17. Texas (1-0)
  18. Texas Tech (2-1)
  19. Richmond (2-0)
  20. Kentucky (1-1)
  21. Oregon (0-0)?
  22. Florida State (0-0)?
  23. Ohio State (2-0)
  24. Rutgers (3-0)
  25. Arizona State (2-1)

NHL:

Last season (2019) ended in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals on 6/12/19, when the St. Louis Blues beat my Bruins 4-3 in the Finals. The puck dropped on this asterisk season on 10/2/19. Then it all ended about 70 of 82 games into the regular season. On 5/28, in a very unusual move, the NHL concluded the 2019-2020 regular season and awarded my Boston Bruins with the Presidents’ Trophy (for having the best record), which is typically a curse for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for that team. The Bruins also received the William M. Jennings Trophy (both Bruins’ goalies Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak, for best goals-against avg.) and Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy (David Pastrnak for most goals, 48, tied with Alex Ovechkin). Ironically, halfway through the playoffs, Tuukka Rask suddenly announced that he was leaving the Bruins, leaving them with just their No.2 goalie. Seattle will finally get a new NHL team in 2021-2022 season, the Seattle Kraken. 

The puck dropped (again) to conclude this season on 8/1/20. The teams played in the modified playoffs in two bubble arenas in Toronto and Edmonton, without fans. The Stanley Cup was won by the Tampa Bay Lightning (who ousted my Bruins due to the curse) over the Dallas Stars, 4 games to 2. The Finals were held in the Edmonton bubble, without fans.

NBA:

This year, the NBA season did not start until 10/22/19, 18 days later than last year. We were nearing the playoffs, when the pandemic shut the regular season down, with just a little over a month left. Late 6/4/20, the NBA reportedly approved a 22-team format to restart the season in the Summer. All games were played at the three venues at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fl, starting 7/31. The modified playoff format for this asterisk season began on 10/12. In the end, the Miami Heat lost the Championship to the LA Lakers. 

Horse Racing:

For the first time since WWII, the Kentucky Derby was postponed from 5/2/20. It was run on 9/5/20, Labor Day weekend. The Preakness Stakes was moved from 5/16/20 to 10/3/20. The Belmont Stakes was shifted from 6/6 to 6/20. So, the 3rdleg of the Triple Crown became the 1st leg, the 1st leg became the 2nd leg, and the 2nd leg became the 3rd leg. It was awfully confusing and all the races were held without fans. Tiz the Law won the Belmont, but Authentic beat him in the Kentucky Derby, and the Preakness was won in an upset by a filly Swiss Skydiver. 

Racing:

NASCAR began the 2020 season with 4 races at Daytona, followed by 3 scheduled races, the last on 3/8/20. But, then the pandemic shut everything down, wiping out the next 7 scheduled races.  The season finally restarted at Darlington Raceway on 5/17. The race was run without fans in the stands. NASCAR is making every effort to get as many of the originally schedule races in to the abbreviated season that had been postponed. Some races will be cancelled.

In the NASCAR Cup Series of 2019, Kyle Busch won in the last race at Homestead.  In 2018, the winner was Joey Logano, who beat Martin Truex Jr. in the final 15 laps of the final race at Homestead.  Truex Jr. won the crown in 2017.  The 2020 regular season will begin in February with the Daytona 500. Here is the complete (updated) schedule of races for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup in 2020 and the results. You will notice that, after 3/8/20, some races had to be postponed, some had to be cancelled, and some had to be replaced by other races. Also, NASCAR snuck in a lot more races in-between the typical Sunday races. In addition, NASCAR was the first professional sport to allow spectators back during the COVID-19 epidemic: 

2/16 Daytona 500 (postponed by rain to 2/17)-winner Erik Jones

2/23 Las Vegas, Jiffy Lube Pennzoil 400-winner Joey Logano

3/1 Auto Club 400-winner Alex Bowman

3/8 Phoenix, FanShield 500-Joey Logano

3/15 Atlanta, Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500-POSTPONED

3/22 Homestead, Dixie Vodka 400-POSTPONED

3/29 Texas, O’Reilly Auto Parts 500-POSTPONED

4/5 Bristol, Food City 500-CANCELLED

4/19 Richmond, Toyota Owners 400-POSTPONED

4/26 Talladega, GEICO 500-POSTPONED

5/3 Dover, NASCAR Cup Race at Dover-POSTPONED

5/9 Martinsville, NASCAR Cup Race at Martinsville-POSTPONED

5/16 Charlotte, NASCAR All Star Open-CANCELLED

5/17 Darlington, The Real Heroes 400-winner Kevin Harvick

5/20 Darlington, Toyota 500-winner Denny Hamlin

5/24 Charlotte, Coca-Cola 600 as originally scheduled-winner Brad Keselowski

5/28 Charlotte, Alsco Uniforms 500-winner Chase Elliott

5/31 Kansas, Kansas 400-replaced by NASCAR CUP SERIES Food City Supermarket Heroes 500 at Bristol, which was scheduled for 4/5-winner Brad Keselowski

6/7 Michigan, FireKeepers Casino 400-replaced by Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 in Atlanta, which was scheduled for 3/15, winner Kevin Harvick

6/10 Martinsville, Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville, which was scheduled for 5/9, winner Martin Truex, Jr. 

6/14 Sonoma, Toyota/Save Mart 350-replaced by Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead, Miami, which was scheduled for 3/22-winner Denny Hamlin

6/22 Chicagoland, Chicagoland 400-replaced by GEICO 500 at Talladega, which was scheduled for 4/26-winner Ryan Blaney

6/27 Pocono, inserted race Organics 325 in partnership with Rodale Institute-winner Kevin Harvick

6/27 Pocono, Worry-Free Weather Guarantee 350-as scheduled-winner Denny Hamlin

7/5 Indianapolis, Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400-as scheduled-winner Kevin Harvick

7/12 Kentucky, Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart-as scheduled-winner Cole Custer

7/15 Bristol, NASCAR All-Star Open, inserted race-Matt DiBenedetto

7/15 Bristol, NASCAR All-Star Race, inserted race-Chase Elliott

7/19 New Hampshire, Foxwoods Resort Casino 301, replaced by O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway-winner Austin Dillon

7/23 Super Start Batteries 400, also presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts, inserted race-winner Denny Hamlin

8/2 New Hampshire, Foxwoods Resort Casino 301, added-winner Brad Keselowski

8/8 Michigan, Firekeepers Casino 400-added-winner Kevin Harvick

8/9 Michigan, Consumers Energy 400, as scheduled-winner Kevin Harvick 

8/16 Watkins Glen, Go Bowling at The Glen-as scheduled-winner Chase Elliott

8/23 Dover, Drydene 400-as scheduled-winner Kevin Harvick

8/29 Daytona, Coke Zero Sugar 400-as scheduled-winner William Bryon

PLAYOFFS:

9/6 Darlington, Southern 500-winner Kevin Harvick

9/12 Richmond, Federated Auto Parts 400-Brad Keselowski

9/19 Bristol, Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race-Kevin Harvick

9/27 Las Vegas, South Point 400-Kurt Busch

10/4 Talladega, Alabama 500-Denny Hamlin

10/11 Charlotte, Bank of America ROVAL 400-Chase Elliott

10/18 Kansas, Hollywood Casino 400-Joey Logano

10/25 Texas, Texas 500-Kyle Busch

11/1 Martinsville, NASCAR Cup Fall Race-Chase Elliott

11/8 Phoenix, NASCAR Cup Series Championship-won by Chase Elliott. His dad, Bill Elliott, won the championship in 1988. They became the third father-son duo to win a title, joining the Petty’s (Lee and Richard) and Jarrett’s (Ned and Dale)

Formula One began with F1 Car Launch Dates for the various teams from 2/12 through 2/15 for Renault, Racing Point, McLaren, and Ferrari.  That was followed by the Pre-Season Testing schedule.  The opening of the season coincided with the COVID-19 lockdown, and the Australia Grand Prix was about to run, and FIA announced that the season would be delayed at least until the 5/3 Dutch Grand Prix.  It announced a number of race postponements. F1 will have an abbreviated 19 race season (instead of the record 22-race season planned), when it begins. The reports were that they were thinking about 7/5 as a start date, and that was good intel.  There will likely be no summer break and they anticipate that the season end date will extend beyond the original end date of 11/27-29. So, we lost the Australian GP, Bahrain GP, Vietnamese GP, Chinese GP, and Canadian GP. The season began on 7/5/20 with the Austrian GP. Here is the NEW 2020 schedule and results:

7/5/20       Austrian GP-winner V.Bottas

7/12/20     Steiermark GP-winner L.Hamilton

7/19/20     Hungarian GP-winner L.Hamilton

8/2/20       British GP-winner L.Hamilton

8/9/20       70th Anniversary GP-Verstappen

8/15/20     Spanish GP-L.Hamilton

8/30/20     Belgian GP-L.Hamilton

9/6/20       Italian GP-Gasly

9/13/20     Tuscan GP-L.Hamilton

9/27/20     Russian GP-L.Hamilton

10/25/20   Portugal GP-L.Hamilton

11/1/20     Italy GP-L.Hamilton

11/15/20   Turkey GP

11/29/20   Abu Dhabi GP

Here is the IndyCar Racing circuit (Indy cars are generally considered faster than F1 car along straight lines, mostly because their races are on oval tracks, while F1 tracks are more intricate, requiring better brakes and more aerodynamic grip than Indy cars).  In 2019, Josef Newgarden came in 8th in the last race, to just edge out Simon Pagenaud for the championship.  COVID-19 pandemic was going to allow only one IndyCar race to run so far this season, St. Petersburg, and it would be without spectators. However, just before the race, IndyCar announced that the rest of the season would be postponed at least until June 14, and several races would be cancelled, including this one. It then announced that all races through April would be cancelled. They have announced some postponements of later races, which I will update as I receive them (notice that IndyCar doubled up on some races on back-to-back days):

3/15 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg-POSTPONED to 10/25

3/22 Circuit of the Americas-CANCELLED

4/5 Grand Prix of Alabama-Takuma Sato-CANCELLED

4/19 Grand Prix at Long Beach-CANCELLED

4/26 AutoNation IndyCar Challenge at Austin, TX-CANCELLED

5/9 GMR Grand Prix of Indianapolis-postponed to 7/4

5/24 104th Indianapolis 500-postponed to 8/23

5/30 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 1-CANCELLED

5/31 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 2-CANCELLED

6/6 Genesys 600 at Texas Grand Prix-This race is expected to be run without spectators in a shortened 300 miles-winner Scott Dixon

6/21 Rev Group Grand Prix at Road America-POSTPONED

6/27 Indy Richmond 300-CANCELLED

7/4    GMR Grand Prix, Indianapolis (postponed from 5/9)-winner Scott Dixon

7/11 Rev Group GP at Road America-Race 1-winner Scot Dixon

7/12 Honda Indy Toronto-CANCELLED, replaced by Rev Group GP at Road America-Race 2-winner Felix Rosenqvist

7/17 Iowa 300-rescheduled as Grand Prix of Iowa-Race 1-winner Simon Pagenaud

7/18 Grand Prix of Iowa-Race 2, inserted race-winner Josef Newgarden

8/23 Bommarito Automotive Group 500-POSTPONED, replaced by Indianapolis 500, previously scheduled for 5/24-Takuma Soto

8/29 Bommarito Automotive Group 500 race 1-inserted-Scott Dixon

8/30 Bommarito Automotive Group 500 race 2-originally scheduled for 8/23-Josef Newgarden

9/12 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Race 1-inserted-Will Power

9/13 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Race 2-inserted-Colton Herta

9/13 Grand Prix of Portland, POSTPONED one week 

9/19 Firestone Grand Prix at Monterey Race 1, inserted race-

9/20 Firestone Grand Prix at Monterey Race 2, as scheduled-Josef Newgarden

10/2 IndyCar Harvest GP 1 at Indianapolis-ADDED-Josef Newgarden

10/3 IndyCar Harvest GP 2 at Indianapolis-ADDED-Will Power

10/25 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg-ADDED as final race-Josef Newgarden

Scott Dixon was the Championship winner for 2020, edging out defending champion, Josef Newgarden.

Travel News:

I have not travelled during COVID-19 pandemic, until last week for Thanksgiving. As a certain Special Forces (Green Beret) Airborne soldier is being deployed (again), and others in the family came together in Colorado for the holiday, we flew on American Airlines. I was pleased with the cleanliness and newness of the planes and the procedures for disinfecting. I was pleased (though uncomfortable) with wearing a mask for a long flight, as my fellow passengers did the same, and we were lucky that the booking agent for American actually blocked the middle seat for us on 2 of the 4 flights. I only had 2 near passengers on one of the flights who negligently did not wear their masks at all during the flight. I don’t know why the flight attendants didn’t jump on that. I was very surprised that at PBI, DFW, and DVR, no one took our temperature at Security. Seems like an easy thing to do that could be helpful at screening. I noticed that TSA also wasn’t as diligent or on top of things security-wise. Maybe they are lax because of distracting worry about COVID-19 or maybe they are shorter-staffed, I don’t know.  The Trump Administration is changing the US Citizenship test. The new version will ask 20 questions (in Spanish) rather than 10, including some with a more conservative framing (I have no idea what that means either). And it’s in English.

Health News:  

As of this evening (11/9/20), globally, more than 1,259,245 people have died from COVID-19.  More than 50.7 million people have been infected with COVID-19. In the US, confirmed cases of COVID-19 have surpassed 10 million people. Of that, US deaths from the pandemic have surpassed 272,000. The US has the most deaths from COVID-19 of any country in the world, followed by Brazil (162,397), India (126,611), Mexico (95,027), and UK (49,154). France and Italy, like the US, are reporting record cases, as COVID-19 continues to ravage Europe. In the US, daily new cases now top 100,000. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in several US states is now accelerating more rapidly than anywhere else in the world. The WHO said that Europe’s latest restrictions seem to be slowing the spread of the virus. New cases there have dropped about 10% in the past week. Japan is suffering a new and more serious wave of infection, while in the US, hospitalizations and deaths are skyrocketing out of control. Just on 12/1/20, 2,473 Americans died from COVID-19.  The director of the CDC now predicts that US virus deaths, now at about 273,000, could hit 450,000 by February. Remember, Dr. Fauci was ridiculed when he predicted 150,000-250,000 deaths in the US from COVID-19, near the beginning of the pandemic. This is important, so I put it in bold (I’m not sure that shows on the website though): the CDC has reduced the recommended minimum quarantine time for people exposed to the virus. The old standard was 14 days; now, those without symptoms may end quarantine after 7 days with a negative test, or after 10 days without a negative test.  

There are dozens of COVID-19 vaccines now in clinical trials. Eleven vaccines are now in late-stage trials. Last week, Pfizer made headlines with an announcement that it has a vaccine for COVID-19 that is more than 90% effective in late-stage trials on about 43,000 volunteers. Pfizer announced that it will request emergency use authorization for its vaccine, as will BioNTech. This week, Moderna announced that it has a COVID-19 vaccine that is 94% effective in late-stage trials, and it does not have to be stored at -70 degrees Fahrenheit, like Pfizer’s vaccine. It turns out that major financial support for Moderna came from Dolly Parton. Moderna said that it is benefitting from the troubles of two other pharmaceutical companies. The US Government’s Operation Warp Speed, an effort to rush a vaccine to market, has promised a vaccine producer $1.95 billion to deliver 100 million doses of the vaccine to the federal government, which will then be given to Americans for free. It is important to note that Pfizer’s announcement was a news release, not a peer-reviewed medical journal.  Also, vaccines in the FDA express lane still have hurdles to clear. Gilead pointed out that the WHO ignored evidence in advising doctors not to use its remdesivir treatment. Meanwhile, Roche will be able to make its first deliveries of its antibody treatments (which have been very effective in reducing symptoms in patients if caught early) in early 2021. The UK became the first Western country to approve a COVID-19 vaccine, with its regulator, Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, clearing the Pfizer BioNTech shot, ahead of decisions by the US and EU. The UK has pre-ordered 40 million doses, which is enough for 20 million people, and intends to have the first doses available starting next week. 

The CDC was urging Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving, saying the safest way to celebrate is “at home with the people you live with.” We are in the middle of the 11/01-12/15 Affordable Health Care Act window, to obtain long-term health care insurance. I got jammed on that last year and had to pay for my own knee replacement surgery. So, don’t mess with this. The only thing that President Trump removed last year was the IRS penalty for not having it.  Harvard Medical School reports that research on mice has been able to ‘turn back the clock’ on eye cells in the retina, reversing vision loss. 

People who have been “fooled” by Tecate beer into thinking that the beer was brewed in Mexico, rather than in Holland, are taking action and bringing a class action lawsuit against the Holland brewer. 

Animal News:

Restaurants in Singapore now offer chicken items on their menus that don’t require the inhumane slaughter of chickens. The chicken is part of “cultured foods” grown in a lab, so no animals need to be killed. The other benefit of the process is that it reduces the risk of diseases being spread via livestock.  Starting next month, only DOGS will be allowed as service animals aboard US flights. All other emotional support animals (which have included on flights snakes, pigs, cats, monkeys, etc.) will be considered pets by the airlines. Yes, that had gotten out of control. Although, I don’t know how cat owners are going to feel about that.

Entertainment News:

The Voice season 19 is moving along, with Christina Aguilera back in her judge’s seat. Nick Kroll married Lily Kwong. Duck Dynasty’s Bella Robertson, 18, is engaged to boyfriend Jacob Mayo. I finally paid the $6.99/month and bought Disney+, so I could watch The Mandolorian on my laptop. I am all caught up and it’s awesome! I needed my STAR WARS fix. Cher flew to Cambodia for the world’s “loneliest elephant”. Felicity Huffman will finally make her TV return after college entrance scandal. Ice-T continues to urge fans to take coronavirus seriously. Kelly Clarkson has won custody of her children most of the time, per an LA County judge. The singer and her estranged husband, Brandon Blackstock, were each seeking primary custody of the children. Glenn Close, in an interview, ‘politely’ called out Gwyneth Paltrow’s 1999 Oscar win, saying “doesn’t make sense” while discussing past Oscar nominations. Looking over at Grammy’s, Halsey has slammed “elusive” Grammy nomination process after snub. “Hamilton” could be the first show to reopen Broadway, reportedly. Lori Loughlin has a new $9 million mansion. Carrie Underwood, one of the two most successful American Idol winners of all time, revealed that she considered not competing for the show due to fear. She “burst into tears.” British Culture Minister (apparently there is one) said to the Mail that Netflix’s Crown series needs to be labeled “fiction” and have a disclaimer. Melissa Gilbert shared a health update one week after “life altering” spinal surgery and negative coronavirus test. Jennifer Lawrence’s family farm that doubled as a kids’ summer camp in Kentucky was destroyed ‘horrible fire’. Netflix’s hit Ozark, which I just binge-watched to catch up, just had its 4th season cancelled, per Rotten Tomatoes. So, I binge-watched Ozark, Away, and Bloodline, all of which were given another season, and then were all cancelled. I’m not jinxy or anything, being a Red Sox fan, lol!  Umbrella Academy star Elliot Page, formerly known as Ellen Page, has come out as transgender. Big Bang Theory star Johnny Galecki split from girlfriend Alaina Meyer after 2 years of dating. President Obama said not giving Dolly Parton a Medal of Freedom was a “mistake”. “She deserves one”, he said. Dolly was instrumental in partly funding Moderna on their search for a vaccine for COVID-19, among other humane acts. Sarah Silverman says lefty comics get away with offensive jokes simply because being a liberal allows them/her to say “words that are unsayable” to people with other political views. Stephen Colbert has been diagnosed with benign positional vertigo, saying “I just fall down”. Wow! I had ‘regular’ vertigo for 2 months from 7 sinus/ear infections back in the early 2000s, and it was awful, but I’ve never heard of this one. Justin Bieber says he’d “love to have a tribe” of kids with Hailey Baldwin. A Queen Elizabeth’s staffer has admitted to stealing from Buckingham Palace, selling royal items on eBay. A Christmas celebration is being put together which will include Mariah Carey to bring Christmas cheer in a year when too much has had to be ‘cancelled.’ I hope she gets the lip-synch track to work, unlike that New Year’s Eve celebration. Oh, stop! I’ll give the Long Island native some props for having the most popular Christmas song, 1994’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You”, which hit No.1 on Billboard’s Hot 100, and is now the highest selling holiday digital song of all time in the US, with 3.6 million downloads.  It’s the first Christmas song to hit No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, since “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” in 1958.  That beats all of Elvis Presley’s Christmas hits.  Mariah has reportedly made $70 million on just that Christmas hit. Jennifer Lopez has posed nude for cover art of her new single and is wowing fans, blowing up Instagram. I saw the picture on Entertainment Tonight and she does not look anywhere near 50 years old. The movie HOME ALONE turned 30-years-old. That means that Kevin McCallister would now be 38-years-old. Entertainment icon, Tina Turner, released her new memoir on 12/1, and in it says that she is very happy to have retired from on-stage performing and was ecstatic about the Broadway musical that debuted last year about her life. I know this isn’t ‘entertainment’ but I always put news about famous people in this section. Valery Giscard d-Estaing, who was the President of France in the 1970s (and I remember him), died from COVID-19 at the age of 94. A crowdfunding campaign is seeking to raise at least $5.3 million to buy the longtime home of J.R.R. Tolkien, where he wrote “The Hobbit” and most of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, and turn it into a museum. Rafer Johnson, who carried the American flag into Rome’s Olympic Stadium in 1960, as the first black captain of the Unites States Olympic team, and went on to win Gold in the decathlon and become a close advisor to the Kennedy family, has died at 86.

Technology & Space News:

Google has teamed with Citi and Stanford Federal Credit Union to extend its reach into consumer finance by offering bank accounts and payments transfers. They figure that it will be particularly appealing to the younger population, Gen Z, that are more tech-driven and mobile-focused. The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta released a paper that suggests that low-income Americans could benefit from digital-payment systems that don’t require participation from banks, sort of a public utility that offers universal access to a basic bank account.  As banks race to meet the March 2022 deadline for phasing out LIBOR, some are now turning to Artificial Intelligence to go through troves of documents and identify necessary adjustments.  PayPal CEO Dan Schulman said that the use of digital currencies is about to go mainstream and may lead to cash being on the way out, as more merchants are now taking a “digital first” approach to payments. Research suggests that our new ‘remote workplace/meeting’ approach in 2020 has led to the extinction of ‘water cooler talk’, casual office conversations which allow colleagues to collaborate on work projects.  BlackRock has added climate risk software to its Aladdin investment operations platform, that allows investors to quantify climate risk in their portfolios. 

US News:

President Trump has still not conceded the 11/3 Presidential Election. He is taking legal action in a number of states, to challenge the outcomes there. He has managed to get hand recounts in some districts. Georgia’s recount showed Biden kept a narrower but still decisive lead. President-elect Biden says that he will reveal his appointment for Treasury secretary “before or just after Thanksgiving.” Candidates are thought to include Fed’s Lael Brainard, former Fed Roger Ferguson, and former Fed Chair Janet Yellen. Biden’s Secretary of State pick is under fire for Chinese Biden Center funds. Despite health expert warnings about large gatherings, the White House reportedly intends to hold plenty of holiday parties. President-elect Biden says he has no immediate plan to remove the Trump Administration’s tariffs on Chinese goods. Instead, he reiterated a pledge to coordinate a strategy with friendly nations in Europe and Asia to compete with China. President-elect Biden plans to keep Christopher Wray as FBI Director. In an effort to make the job less political, the FBI Director has a 10-year term (too bad Congress doesn’t at least have that term limit), although President Trump surprised everyone during his term, by firing James Comey.

The government is still floundering with the HEROES Act for an additional check to taxpayers. JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon has called on lawmakers to end “childish behavior” and agree on another relief package for the economy. Last I read, I think there are 3 draft bills on the table with large differences. A bipartisan Senatorial group has proposed $908 billion in aid, which includes a boost of $180 billion for unemployment benefits and another $240 billion for state and local governments. Fed Chairman Powell and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin have been urging Congress to act quickly to help small businesses survive. Powell says that many small businesses are at risk of going out of business in the near term, while Mnuchin said that Congress should authorize an additional $300 billion for the PPP to aid smaller firms, particularly restaurants. Some 12 million Americans could lose access to federal unemployment benefits by December 26th, if Congress fails to renew emergency assistance programs, according to Century Foundation. 2.9 million of those people would still be able to receive state assistance. Many Americans are facing a bleak holiday season, with millions still unemployed and benefits almost exhausted. Moody’s Analytics did a great job painting the bleak picture: Some 7 million freelancers (or gig employees) will lose their emergency aid, which averaged $1058 per month. Then, 5 million other Americans who have been out of work for at least 6 months will also be cut off from aid, which now averages $1253 per month. The normal limit for jobless benefits is 26 weeks, but a provision extended it to 39 weeks. Also, several million people could face eviction from their homes, due to a Federal moratorium on evictions expiring soon. About 21 million people will have to begin making student-loan payments again, as that moratorium will also expire. Even a tax credit for some 125,000 companies as an incentive to NOT lay off workers will expire. Companies will also no longer be able to defer payroll taxes and take deductions for business losses. If that isn’t enough, aid to state and local governments, to the tune of $150 billion, will also expire, which could impact schools, police services, health care, and other programs. Yet, Americans have already spent some $2 billion on Christmas trees. Like the song says, “we need a little Christmas now.” If you recall, as I carefully detailed, almost 40 million jobs were lost in the US at the height of COVID-19 pandemic economic impact. There is still a net loss of 9.7 million jobs in the latest unemployment numbers, since the beginning of the pandemic in the US. The SBA released full details on the PPP loan recipients, which showed that 28% of the loans were for less than $150,000. About 5% of PPP borrowers received more than 50% of the $522 billion loaned, and about 600 large companies received the maximum amount of $10 million. 

A Chicago man was killed during a fight over hands in Thanksgiving leftovers. The police broke up a party of 400 people at a luxury home on Long Island. One of the many calls to the police actually came from the mansion’s owner, who had rented his property out on Airbnb and discovered the gathering while watching his security cameras from afar. Past-President Barack Obama (I didn’t know what honorific to use) said Progressives should avoid calls to “defund the police”, arguing that it turns off voters and gets in the way of change. Doesn’t it also put citizens at risk? I mean, I know that there have been some inexcusable incidents of police brutality lately, which are bizarre, and some officers have committed cold-blooded murder and should be prosecuted, but defunding ALL of the police is an extreme measure. I think police should be better at policing (and arresting) police and follow rules that are far more citizen-friendly. And, that’s the first time since I started this in 1982 that I gave my opinion about a controversial subject in the Repo Commentary. 

International News:

The EU is imposing tariffs on $4 billion of US goods over a trade dispute regarding Boeing. President Trump met with China’s Premier Xi at virtual trade summit. The US House of Representatives has approved legislation that could lead to Chinese companies, including the likes of Alibaba and Baidu, getting kicked off of US exchanges, if US regulators aren’t allowed to review their financial audits. The bill has already cleared the Senate in May, and President Trump is expected to sign it.  The US is not the only country having trade issues with China. Australia said that it won’t back down from a list of grievances against China, as the growing diplomatic fight is hurting trade between the two countries. I never know where to put the Climate Change news; in WEATHER, INTERNATIONAL, HEALTH, etc.?  Anyway, the world is on the brink of either preventing devastating climate change or spending hundreds of billions of dollars on something worthless. Bloomberg reports that there are proposals to build a new industry producing so-called green hydrogen. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are reportedly about to end their 3-year fight. Elon Musk is now taking his battle against unions to Germany. Iran says it will begin enriching uranium to a level closer to weapons grade (grrrrr) and stop allowing inspections, unless the US lifts economic sanctions. It appears that they want to force President-elect to re-enter the 2015 nuclear deal that President Trump scrapped. 

Florida:

A Florida woman, Suzette Penton, suffered a traumatic brain injury and several broken bones in an 11/9 crash, after being run over while defending her son, and has subsequently died. She was allegedly run over as she defended her sone, who had reportedly been assaulted by a group of 4 teenagers. They have now been charged with murder. 

Jokes and Such:

Repo Commentary-11/10/20

It is Day 244 (on 11/10) since the official start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the day that the WHO declared it a ‘pandemic’ (3/11/20). Of course, that depends on which conspiracy theories to which you ascribe.

I hope that you and your families are staying healthy and safe. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its literal mortal, economic, and mental toll on millions of people around the world.

The last installment of the Repo Commentary was at the end of July (7/28). Luckily, nothing has happened since, lol! Hopefully, you missed not seeing it, while I toiled very hard on my latest project. It was actually fascinating and educational for me. It was kind of a work of love, sort of like a book that I always wanted to write, about my 38 years in the Repo & Securities Lending industry.  In conjunction with Pierpoint Financial Consulting and their Finance Academy, I have compiled an 11-week state-of-the-art virtual training and education course on the Fundamentals of Repo. You can learn more about the course here: https://www.pierpoint.info/courses/the-fundamentals-of-repo

So, I am still NOT retired from the Securities Finance industry.  I am also consulting with an electronic trading platform, and making great headway on providing a large electronic solution for several markets.  I am also available FOR HIRE as a consultant, with almost 38 years of experience in the Repo & Securities Lending industry. So, if you need my Securities Financing expertise or access to my vast network of about 9000 clients, call my mobile (646-753-1300), email (jeffkidwell82@gmail.com), or hit me up on LinkedIn.  

My Repo Commentary is posted FREE (it’s actually always been free) on my website:  www.repocommentary.com. It also pops up on LinkedIn, the Global Investors Group (ISF Magazine) website, and on CentralBanks.com as an op-ed. I am interested in entertaining you and taking your mind off the pressures you are under.

Since its inception in 1982, the Repo Commentary does not represent the views of any of my former firms and reflects only my opinion and includes only publicly available information.  I make a strong effort to attribute any quotes or thoughts that are not my own, I do not make any marketing spiels, and I really am more interested (70-80%) in entertaining you than boring (20-30%) you with too much market info. Feel free, as always, to send me information or pictures, to make it better!

Holidays or Events (11/10):

  • Area Code Day
  • International Accounting Day
  • National Forget-Me-Not Day
  • National Vanilla Cupcake Day
  • National Young Reader’s Day
  • World Science Day for Peace and Development
  • Sesame Street Day
  • US Marine Corps Birthday (reportedly beginning to disband some units)
  • Cry of Independence Day in Panama
  • Day of Remembrance of Ataturk (Turkey)
  • Day of Russian Militsiya (Russia)
  • Day of Tradition (Argentina)
  • Heroes Day in Indonesia
  • Martinisingen in Germany
  • World Keratoconus Day

Some Famous People Born on (11/10) in History:

  • 1483-Martin Luther, German monk and priest, leader of the Protestant Reformation
  • 1810-George Jennings, English plumber and engineer, invented the flush toilet
  • 1834-Jose Hernandez, Argentinian journalist, poet, and politician
  • 1888-Andrei Tupolev, Russian engineer and designer, founded the Tupolev Company
  • 1919-Mikhall Kalashnikov, Russian general and engineer, designed the AK-47
  • 1925-Richard Burton, Welsh actor and singer
  • 1929-W.E.B. Griffin, American soldier and author
  • 1931-Lilly Pulitzer, American fashion designer
  • 1944-Tim Rice, English lyricist and author (lyricist for many Andrew Lloyd-Webber hit Broadway shows)
  • 1947-Dave Loggins, American singer-songwriter and guitarist
  • 1953-Les Miles, American football player and coach
  • 1954-Bob Stanley, American baseball player and coach (my coach in fact)
  • 1955-Jack Clark, American baseball player, coach, and manager
  • 1956-Sinbad, American comedian, actor, and producer
  • 1959-Mackenzie Phillips, American actress
  • 1968-Tracy Morgan, American comedian, actor, and producer
  • 1969-Ellen Pompeo, American actress and producer
  • 1977-Brittany Murphy, American actress
  • 1978-Eve, American rapper and producer
  • 1983-Miranda Lambert, American singer-songwriter and guitarist
  • 1992-Teddy Bridgewater, American football player
  • 1996-Drew Lock, American football player

Daily Weird Facts:

Finland is the world’s Happiest Country, according to the 2019 World Happiness Report. I think the 2020 Report was cancelled, due to lack of happiness.

Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:

“Democracy is not just an election, it is our daily life.”—Tsai Ing-wen

Currency and Commodity Markets:

Oil prices closed at:

$74.34/barrel on 10/5/18

$47.66/barrel on 12/23

$48.63 on 01/07/19

$52.31/barrel on 01/16

$55.26/barrel on 2/3

$55.41/barrel on 2/26

$73.77/barrel on 4/29

$63.28/barrel on 5/17

$54.07/barrel on 6/18

$55.96/barrel on 7/24

$58.31/barrel on 9/10

$53.50/barrel on 10/2

$59.10/barrel on 12/8

$58.81/barrel on 1/17/20

$54.39/barrel on 2/7

$35.92/barrel on 3/11

$27.15/barrel on 3/18

$29.90/barrel on 3/23

$27.43/barrel on 3/27

$24.90/barrel on 4/01

$31.80/barrel on 4/12

$28.31/barrel on 4/17

$20.03/barrel on 4/27

$26.78/barrel on 5/04

$30.39/barrel on 5/09

$35.69/barrel on 5/20

$39.78/barrel on 6/04

$43.37/barrel on 7/27

$43.17/barrel on 11/9

Oil prices have rallied back to pre-COVID-19 prices, although still waffling, and nowhere near the highs. It did rally 8.5% on promising COVID-19 vaccine results. Brent markets have rallied to just shy of the 200 day EMA, a major resistance area. UAE oil major ADNOC sees oil demand reaching 105 million Bpd within a decade. Big oil stocks have been soaring this week. The price of gasoline at my West Palm Beach station has been unchanged for some time, at $1.89/gallon.

One USD versus the Yen was trading at (these are all around Repo Commentary dates):

112.20 on 12/24

108.60 on 01/07

109.07 on 01/16

103.18 on 02/03

104.86 on 2/25

103.86 on 5/17

102.59 on 6/18

102.43 on 7/24

101.72 on 9/10

102.16 on 10/02

102.96 on 12/06

104.30 on 01/17/20

104.80 on 02/07/20

99.23 on 03/11/20

101.67 on 03/18/20

104.77 on 03/24/20

102.22 on 04/13/20

102.14 on 04/19/20

101.57 on 04/27/20

106.82 on 05/04/20

100.80 on 05/10/20

102.04 on 05/20/20

103.32 on 06/04/20

100.05 on 07/27/20

105.26 on 11/10/20

One Euro was trading on:

12/24 at $1.1426

01/07 at $1.1478

01/16 at $1.1396

02/03 at $1.2047

02/25 at $1.1955

05/17 at $1.1761

06/18 at $1.1825

07/24 at $1.1740

09/10 at $1.1623

10/02 at $1.1504

12/06 at $1.1688

01/17 at $1.1721

02/07 at $1.1543

03/11 at $1.1937

03/18 at $1.1575

03/24 at $1.1400

04/13 at $1.1523

04/19 at $1.1394

04/27 at $1.1407

05/04 at $1.0903

05/10 at $1.1402

05/20 at $1.1522

06/04 at $1.1795

07/27 at $1.2314

11/10 at $1.1821

One British Pound was trading on:

12/24 at $1.2655

01/07 at $1.2770

01/16 at $1.2880

02/03 at $1.3758

02/25 at $1.3728

05/17 at $1.3427

06/18 at $1.3157

07/24 at $1.3070

09/10 at $1.2959

10/02 at $1.2882

12/06 at $1.3819

01/17 at $1.3753

02/07 at $1.3574

03/11 at $1.354

03/18 at $1.2665

03/24 at $1.2231

04/13 at $1.3143

04/19 at $1.3058

04/27 at $1.3052

05/04 at $1.2435

05/10 at $1.3005

05/20 at $1.2844

06/04 at $1.3136

07/27 at $1.3458

11/10 at $1.3255

One USD versus the CAD at:

1.3442 on 12/24

1.3297 on 01/07

1.3255 on 01/16

1.2492 on 2/03

1.2492 on 2/25

1.2800 on 5/17

1.2740 on 6/18

1.2480 on 7/24

1.2520 on 9/10

1.2560 on 10/02

1.2530 on 12/06

1.2390 on 01/17
1.2640 on 02/07

1.3020 on 03/11

1.3540 on 03/18

1.3690 on 03/24

1.3250 on 04/13

1.3390 on 04/19

1.3350 on 04/27

1.4090 on 05/04

1.3250 on 05/10

1.3250 on 05/20

1.2850 on 06/04

1.2730 on 07/27

1.3014 on 11/10

On 10/02/19, Gold closed at $1498.70/ounce. On 3/11/20 (one day after ‘pandemic’ declared), it closed at $1,641/ounce. On 07/27/20, Gold reached a record $1,944.71/ounce, as investors continued to pour money into the safe-haven. But, as of 11/10/20, it is trading at $1,880.30, having backed off the highs.

Bitcoin was trading at (around Repo Commentary Dates):

$8,185.21 on 7/25

$6,350 on 10/5

$3,774.97 on 12/24/18

$3,7774.97 on 01/07

$3,598.90 on 01/16

$3,421.10 on 02/06

$3,826.44 on 02/26

$8,100.00 on 05/16

$7,215.79 on 05/17

$9,088.59 on 06/18

$11,919.30 on 06/25

$9,790.37 on 07/24

$10,183.90 on 09/10

$8,235.46 on 10/02

$7,470.41 on 12/06
$8,876.87 on 01/17/20

$9,793.18 on 02/07/20

$7,871.60 on 03/11/20

$5,216.64 on 03/18/20

$6,728.03 on 03/24/20

$6,646.60 on 03/27/20

$6,443.44 on 03/31/20

$6,908.13 on 04/12/20

$7,128.45 on 04/19/20

$7,748.29 on 04/27/20

$8,775.36 on 05/04/20

$8,771.73 on 05/10/20

$9,525.54 on 05/20/20

$9,794.46 on 06/04/20

$10,849.00 on 07/27/20

$15,160.90 on 11/10/20

After rebounding in 2019 dramatically since the beginning of the year, although certainly not to its $19,000 high, Bitcoin hit a wall at the beginning of the Summer of 2019, then rallied during the Summer, and tumbled again in Q4, and had rallied in early in 2020.  It then gave up all of those 2020 gains with the COVID-19 contagion. It rallied sharply in the last few weeks before the ‘halving event’ on 5/12/20, its 3rd halving event.   Bitcoin is up nearly 400% since 3/13/20, when it hit $3,867. 

Global Financial News:

US exchanges, including Nasdaq and several other exchanges and trading firms, are meeting with Texas Governor Greg Abbott to discuss the possibility of moving data centers to Dallas from New Jersey, after New Jersey followed France and the EU in considering a Financial Transaction Tax. Don’t get me started, but this FTT is simply an attempt to take punitive action on Wall Street for what happened during the Great Recession. I think it is ridiculous and will only hurt business. Good for the firms who are thinking of moving away from such an absurd tax. US bank shares rose, along with oil company shares, on the news of a potential vaccine for COVID-19. It also pushed up corporate bond and corporate loans prices. Banks are preparing to work with President-elect Biden on climate change. The UK is set to sell its first green government bond in 2021, per Reuters. The UK Treasury is drafting regulations for privately-owned stablecoins “that ensures they meet the same minimum standards we expect for other payment methods.”  The Treasury and BoE are also researching the possible use of a central bank digital currency “as a complement to cash.” Today, the Senate’s Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs continues its remote hearing on the “Oversight of Financial Regulators.” Witnesses will be the Fed’s Quarles, Office of Comptroller of the Currency’s Brooks, FDIC’s McWilliams, and the NCUA’s Hood. Congressional Democrats are drafting legislation aimed at making it easier to move tough legacy LIBOR contracts to a replacement benchmark, while providing some safe harbor from litigation. The UK has announced that it will grant EU firms a series of equivalence rights to operate in the City of London after the Brexit transition period.  The decision covers activities such as derivatives trades and financial benchmarks. The BOJ is moving to encourage regional bank mergers.

US Market News:

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be the top news. On Monday, the Dow Jones soared more than 1,500 points after Pfizer announced great news about its vaccine. Oh, and Joe Biden was declared victorious. At 29,887, the Dow was now well above its pre-pandemic peak of 29,569. However, it retreated to 29,158 at the close, so not yet a record close. Of course, industries hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, such as travel & hospitality had large rebounds, and industries that were thriving during the battle against the pandemic, like remote e-commerce and technology, suffered.

Here are the latest DJIA closes, just to demonstrate the massive volatility:

11/09/20   29,157.97

07/24/20   26,469.89

07/23/20 26,652.33

07/22/20   27,005.84

07/21/20   26,840.40

07/20/20   26,680.87

07/17/20   26,671.95

07/16/20   26,734.71

07/15/20   26,870.10

07/14/20   26,642.59

07/13/20   26,085.80

07/10/20   26,075.30

07/09/20   25,706.09

07/08/20   26,067.28

07/07/20   25,890.18

07/06/20   26,287.03

07/02/20   25,827.36

07/01/20   25,734.97

06/30/20   25,812.88

06/29/20   25,595.80

06/26/20   25,015.55

06/25/20   25,745.60

06/24/20   25,445.94

06/23/20   26,156.10

06/22/20   26,024.96

06/19/20   25,871.46

06/18/20   26,080.10

06/17/20   26,119.61

06/16/20   26,289.98

06/15/20   25,763.16

06/12/20   25,605.54

06/11/20   25,128.17

06/10/20   26,989.99

06/09/20   27,272.30

06/08/20   27,572.44

06/05/20   27,110.98

6/04/20     26,281.82

6/03/20     26,269.89

6/02/20     25,742.65

6/01/20     25,475.02

5/29/20     25,383.11

5/28/20     25,400.64

5/27/20     25,548.27

5/26/20     24,995.11

5/22/20     24,465.16

5/21/20     24,474.12

5/20/20     24,575.90

5/19/20     24,206.86

5/18/20     24,597.37

5/15/20     23,685.42

5/14/20     23,625.34

5/13/20     23,247.57

5/12/20     23,764.76

5/11/20     24,221.99

5/08/20     24,331.32

5/07/20     23,875.89

5/06/20     23,664.64

5/05/20     23,883.09

5/04/20     23,749.76

5/01/20     23,723.69

4/30/20     24,345.72

4/29/20     24,633.86

4/28/20     24,101.55

4/27/20     24,133.78

4/24/20     23,775.27

4/23/20     23,515.26

4/22/20     23,475.82

4/21/20     23,018.88

4/20/20     23,650.44

4/17/20     24,242.49

4/16/20     23,537.68

4/15/20     23,504.35

4/14/20     23,949.76

4/13/20     23,390.77

4/10/20     market closed

4/09/20    23,719.37

4/08/20     23,433.57

4/07/20     22,653.86

4/06/20     22,679.99

4/03/20     21,052.53

4/02/20     21,413.44

4/01/20     20,943.51

3/31/20     21,917.16

3/30/20     22,327.48

3/27/20     21,636.78

3/26/20     22,552.17

3/25/20     21,200.55
3/24/20     20,704.91

3/23/20    18,591.93

3/20/20    19,173.98

3/19/20    20,087.19

3/18/20     19,898.92

3/17/20     21,237.38

3/16/20     20,188.52

3/13/20     23,185.62

3/12/20     21,200.62

3/11/20     23,553.22

3/10/20     25,018.16

3/09/20     23,851.02

3/06/20     25,864.78

3/05/20     26,121.28

3/04/20     27,090.86

3/03/20     25,917.41

3/02/20     26,703.32

2/28/20     25,409.36

2/27/20     25,766.64

2/26/20     26,957.59

2/25/20     27,081.36

2/24/20     27,960.80

2/21/20     28,992.41

2/20/20     29,219.98

2/19/20     29,348.03

2/12/20     29,551.42 record high

S&P 500 has closed on:

10/5/18 at 2,885.58

12/26/18 at 2,467.70

01/07/19 at 2,549.69

01/16/19 at 2,616.10

02/06/19 at 2,706.53

02/25/19 at 2,799.34

05/16/19 at 2,876.32

06/18/19 at 2,917.75

07/24/19 at 3,019.56

09/10/19 at 2,969.04

10/02/19 at 2,906.94

12/06/19 at 3,145.91

01/17/20 at 3,329.62

02/07/20 at 3,335.27 down 10.51 from new all-time high

03/12/20 at 2,480.64

03/17/20 at 2,529.19

03/23/20 at 2,237.40

03/26/20 at 2,630.07

03/31/20 at 2,584.59

04/09/20 at 2,789.82

04/17/20 at 2,830.88

04/24/20 at 2,854.65

05/08/20 at 2,929.80

05/19/20 at 2,922.35

06/03/20 at 3,130.94

07/24/20 at 3,215.63

11/09/20 at 3,550.50

S&P has regained everything it lost since 3/11 pandemic announcement, and more, breaking above the high set in early September 2020. JPMorgan is now calling for S&P 500 to reach 4,000 points by early next year.

Nasdaq closing on:

10/5/18 at 7,788.45

12/26/18 at 6,554.36

01/07/19 at 6,823.47

01/16/19 at 7,034.70

02/06/19 at 7,263.87

02/25/19 at 7,561.87

05/16/19 at 7,898.05

06/18/19 at 7,953.68

07/24/19 at 8,321.50

09/10/19 at 8,043.58

10/02/19 at 7,809.22

12/06/19 at 8,656.07

01/17/20 at 9,388.95

02/07/20 at 9,555.96 down 16.19 from new all-time high

03/12/20 at 7,201.80

03/17/20 at 7,334.78

03/23/20 at 6,860.67

03/26/20 at 7,797.54

03/31/20 at 7,700.10

04/09/20 at 8,153.58

04/17/20 at 8,650.14

04/27/20 at 8,730.16

05/08/20 at 9,121.32

05/19/20 at 9,185.10

06/04/20 at 9,615.81 don’t look now, but we have set a new record high, above the previous high of 2/07/20!

07/24/20 at 10,363.18 we continue in uncharted territory

11/09/20 at 11,713.78 just off the record high on 11/05/20

The US Treasury curve was about as flat as it gets and yields were at historic lows in July 2020. But, ever since, the curve has steepened dramatically!  2year yields have barely moved. 3year yields have moved a bit higher. 5year yields have moved higher. But, 7year, 10year, and 30year yields have moved much higher, each one more than the shorter one.  30year yields have nearly doubled since July. And, the yields on all 3 later maturities have reached yields seen pre-COVID pandemic.

2 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 2.88%

12/18/18 at 2.65%

01/07/19 at 2.53%

01/16/19 at 2.55%

02/06/19 at 2.52%

02/22/19 at 2.48%

05/16/19 at 2.20%

06/18/19 at 1.86%

07/24/19 at 1.83%

09/09/19 at 1.58%

10/01/19 at 1.56%

12/06/19 at 1.61%

01/17/20 at 1.58%

02/06/20 at 1.44%

03/11/20 at 0.50%

03/17/20 at 0.47%

03/23/20 at 0.28% wow!

03/26/20 at 0.30%

03/31/20 at 0.23%

04/09/20 at 0.23%

04/17/20 at 0.20%

04/27/20 at 0.24%

05/10/20 at 0.16% historic low

05/19/20 at 0.17%

06/03/20 at 0.19%

07/24/20 at 0.14% new historic low

11/09/20 at 0.17%

3 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 2.99%

12/18/18 at 2.64%

01/07/19 at 2.47% (inverted to 2years)

01/16/19 at 2.53%

02/06/19 at 2.50%

02/22/19 at 2.46%

05/16/19 at 2.15%

06/18/19 at 1.80%

07/24/19 at 1.79%

09/09/19 at 1.52%

10/01/19 at 1.51%

12/06/19 at 1.64%

01/17/20 at 1.58%

02/06/20 at 1.43%

03/11/20 at 0.58%

03/17/20 at 0.54%

03/23/20 at 0.31% wow!

03/26/20 at 0.36%

03/31/20 at 0.29%

04/09/20 at 0.29%

04/17/20 at 0.26%

04/27/20 at 0.29%

05/10/20 at 0.21%

05/19/20 at 0.22%

06/03/20 at 0.26%

07/24/20 at 0.17% wow!

11/09/20 at 0.25%

5 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.07%

12/18/18 at 2.65%

01/07/19 at 2.49%

01/16/19 at 2.54%

02/06/19 at 2.51%

02/22/19 at 2.47%

05/16/19 at 2.18%

06/18/19 at 1.83%

07/24/19 at 1.82%

09/09/19 at 1.49%

10/01/19 at 1.51%

12/06/19 at 1.67%

01/17/20 at 1.63%

02/07/20 at 1.45%

03/11/20 at 0.66%

03/17/20 at 0.56%

03/23/20 at 0.38%

03/26/20 at 0.51%

03/31/20 at 0.37%

04/09/20 at 0.41%

04/17/20 at 0.36%

04/27/20 at 0.41%

05/10/20 at 0.33%

05/19/20 at 0.35%

06/03/20 at 0.38%

07/24/20 at 0.27%

11/09/20 at 0.44%

7 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.18%

12/18/18 at 2.74%

01/07/19 at 2.60%

01/16/19 at 2.62%

02/06/19 at 2.59%

02/22/19 at 2.55%

05/16/19 at 2.28%

06/18/19 at 1.93%

07/24/19 at 1.93%

09/09/19 at 1.57%

10/01/19 at 1.59%

12/06/19 at 1.78%

01/17/20 at 1.74%

02/06/20 at 1.56%

03/11/20 at 0.78%

03/17/20 at 0.91%

03/23/20 at 0.63%

03/26/20 at 0.72%

03/31/20 at 0.55%

04/09/20 at 0.60%

04/17/20 at 0.53%

04/27/20 at 0.56%

05/10/20 at 0.53%

05/19/20 at 0.54%

06/03/20 at 0.59%

07/24/20 at 0.44%

11/09/20 at 0.70% back to near pre-COVID level

10 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.23%

12/18/18 at 2.82%

01/07/19 at 2.70%

01/16/19 at 2.73%

02/06/19 at 2.70%

02/22/19 at 2.65%

05/16/19 at 2.40%

06/18/19 at 2.06%

07/24/19 at 2.05%

09/09/19 at 1.83%

10/01/19 at 1.65% dramatic drop in one month!

12/06/19 at 1.84% dramatic rise in two months!

01/17/20 at 1.84%

02/06/20 at 1.65% and back down again!

03/11/20 at 0.82%

03/17/20 at 1.02% and back up again

03/23/20 at 0.76% and back down again

03/26/20 at 0.83%

03/31/20 at 0.70%

04/09/20 at 0.73%

04/17/20 at 0.65%

04/27/20 at 0.67%

05/10/20 at 0.69%

05/19/20 at 0.70%

06/03/20 at 0.77%

07/24/20 at 0.59%

11/09/20 at 0.96% back to pre-COVID level

30 YEAR BONDS closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.40%

12/18/18 at 3.07%

01/07/19 at 2.99%

01/16/19 at 3.07%

02/06/19 at 3.03%
02/22/19 at 3.02%

05/16/19 at 2.84%

06/18/19 at 2.55%

07/24/19 at 2.58%

09/10/19 at 2.11%

10/01/19 at 2.11%

12/06/19 at 2.29%

01/17/20 at 2.29%

02/06/20 at 2.11%

03/11/20 at 1.30%

03/17/20 at 1.63% way up!

03/23/20 at 1.33% back down

03/26/20 at 1.42%

03/31/20 at 1.35%

04/09/20 at 1.35%

04/17/20 at 1.27%

04/27/20 at 1.29%

05/10/20 at 1.39%

05/19/20 at 1.43%

06/03/20 at 1.56%

07/24/20 at 1.23%

11/09/20 at 1.73% back to pre-COVID level

Housing News:

The real estate market is rethinking whether appraisals are an ‘essential’ service. With many states, counties, and cities having issued stay-at-home orders for non-essential workers, it impacted real estate brokers, homebuilders, appraisers, notaries, and others in the real estate process. Many suffered, some found other ways to do their jobs, and others were replaced by alternatives. FNMA and FHLMC, for instance were directed by the FHFA to use “appraisal alternatives to reduce the need for appraisers to inspect the interior of a home for eligible mortgages.” During COVID-19 pandemic, as many as 40 million people were put out of work by May. The CARES Act of 3/27 offered economic relief to those affected by shut-downs, expanding unemployment benefits and offering mortgage forbearance to homeowners with mortgages backed or insured by the federal government (FHLMC, FNMA, GNMA, VA, and FHA). This allowed homeowners to ask for forbearance from their mortgage servicer and suspend payments for up to 12 months. About 4.3 million homeowners wound up requesting forbearance since the program began. That number of homeowners in forbearance has continued to drop, decreasing to 3.4 million at the end of September, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. The MBA updated that figure last week, showing that US forbearance rate has now fallen to 5.67%, or 2.8 million. Today, the FHFA announced the validation and approval of the Classic FICO credit score model for FNMA and FHLMC. The real estate industry is expressing support for President-elect Biden’s proposed $15,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit. The National Association of Realtors said that was good news, but that we also need to focus on the ongoing housing supply shortage, as we have not been building a sufficient number of homes during the pandemic.  JPMorgan Chase has tightened standards for jumbo loans in Manhattan, which could signal more problems for very high-end real estate in the City.

Repo/Securities Financing News:                               

As many of you know, since 2018 I ghost-wrote a book, worked on several conferences, and continued consulting in Repo & Securities Lending, I am really not retired. In my last Repo Commentary 7/28/20, I agreed to partner with Roy Zimmerhansl and his Pierpoint Financial Consulting, to develop and teach the curriculum for the Pierpoint Securities Finance Academy Repo course. I put my decades of knowledge to good use and worked on something that I am passionate about, teaching and speaking about Repo. Well, I finished designing, writing, presenting, and videotaping the 11-week course last week! Many firms and individuals are already signing up for this virtual training, the new normal for global education, for several of the courses offered by Pierpoint Securities’ Finance Academy. Please take a look at: https://www.pierpoint.info/courses/the-fundamentals-of-repo

Securities Lending Times reports that Broadridge Securities Finance and Collateral Management appointed Pierpoint Financial Consulting as its training provider. Broadridge intends to invest in its associates to enhance their business skills, industry knowledge, and understanding.

My friend, Scott Skyrm, writes about the new 10-year US Treasury being issued, after a triple-issued old 10-year note. A triple reissue tends to reduce the ‘specialness’ of an issue in the repo market, despite its use as a hedge for other products. However, a new issue tends to bring back volatility in the Specials Repo market. It could become very Special, given the shorts established already and its limited size of supply. It’s a demand and supply thing, although on two different levels: in the Repo market and in the outright market-primary and secondary. If the issue is bought primarily by investors who do not lend or repo in the Securities Finance market (like the decade-ago debacle on the 10-year note), then the supply could be sharply less, and the issue more Special. The current 10-year has a $108 billion supply and it still trades a little Special, so I wonder if those shorts will reset with the new, much smaller 10-year note.

In case you have been in a coma or are new to the Securities Financing market, this is broadly a summary of what has happened since the Financial Crisis. 

  • Issuance of US Treasuries was about $10 trillion.
  • The regulators, particularly the Federal Reserve, instituted emergency liquidity programs for each of the different sectors of the money market (CP, Corporate Bonds, Broker/Dealers, GSEs, etc.).  They eventually unwound those many programs.
  • They opened up for a brief time the Discount Window to more participants and without the previous stigma attached, for collateral providers to access cash.
  • They put FNMA and FHLMC into conservatorship. Now, they are trying to privatize them.
  • They began easing Monetary Policy massively for years.
  • They began Quantitative Easing and built up the Fed’s balance sheet to $4.5 trillion. They added to it by buying more securities every month from the paydowns on their MBS portfolio.
  • They propped up some of the 47 primary broker/dealers, allowed some to fail, and helped others to consolidate/merge. There are now 22 primary dealers.
  • The Repo Market shrunk in the US from about $7 trillion to $3 trillion, before recent increase to about $3.8 trillion (the Fed argues it is $4 trillion now).
  • Regulators instituted mountains of new reforms, especially the 310 new rules of Dodd-Frank, globally to decrease the likelihood of systemic risk in the financial system and to force, particularly the broker/dealers and GSIB banks to hold more capital/reserves for liquidity.
  • The market began looking for alternatives to financing through the fewer and crimped broker/dealers via CCPs, peer-to-peer financing, Sponsored Repo, and electronic trading platforms (some of which I initiated).
  • The Fed began its much hailed RRP program, kind of like a P2P repo, which added over 300 cash providers from the Repo market to finance the Fed’s balance sheet and provide ‘liquidity’ for those cash providers. Of course, that didn’t help the Primary Dealers, who were using those cash providers to finance their own balance sheets.
  • The Fed stopped QE and began reducing their balance sheet down to $2.5 trillion.
  • The US Treasury began ramping up issuance to the tune of about $1 trillion more, which is funneled through the 24 primary broker/dealers and the central banks.
  • The Fed began tightening monetary policy and tinkering with new measures of repo rates and LIBOR replacement.  They also began tinkering with the Interest on Excess Reserves (IOER) from banks and credit unions, to try to create higher reserves.
  • COVID-19 pandemic hit. The Fed did an about-face and began easing monetary policy immediately. They also went back to doing daily System RPs and Term RPs with the primary dealers.  They had also lowered IOER.  They now have raised IOER.
  • The Fed effectively reinstated QE, injected at least $500 billion to buy US Treasuries again, $200 billion to buy Agency MBS again, and injected funds into the Dollar Roll market. They have said their buying power is unlimited. They have purchased about $733 billion in securities so far. They actually started QE BEFORE COVID-19, to raise “bank reserves” in Q4 2019.
  • They then began reinstating specific bailout/backstop programs of 2008, and continue to add to the list.
  • QE purchases are winding down slowly, about $2 billion per day.  That would have QE end sometime in June. Of course, they can always restart QE. Open Market Operations (RP Operations) have continued, although at a less hectic pace.
  • Issuance of US Treasuries hit $23.5 trillion, and is expected to go higher.
  • The Fed rolled out their Main Street Lending Program to mid-market companies.
  • Basel IV is now coming, after Basel III began being implemented.

Securities Finance Industry Conferences: (most conferences from March on were postponed, cancelled, or made virtual)

  • Deutsche Borse/Clearstream/Securities Lending Times held their annual GFF Summit in Luxembourg, 1/28-1/30/20, which I attended two years ago.
  • IMN 26th Beneficial Owners International Securities Finance conference will be held in Fort Lauderdale, FL on 2/12-2/13/20. I was the Chairperson in 2019 and will be a moderator this year.  That has been my last Repo conference so far this year.
  • iMoneyNet/Informa annual MMExpo, after the merger.  I have spoken at this one several times.
  • PASLA/RMA 17th annual Conference on Asian Securities Lending.
  • GIOA 16th annual conference. I have spoken (and sung) at this one.
  • Crane Data annual Bond Fund Symposium.
  • IHS Markit annual Securities Finance Forum. 
  • Finadium 4th annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference in NYC.  I’ve spoken and sponsored this one.
  • GFOA gigantic 114th (wow!) annual conference.  I have attended this one in the past and manned one of 250 booths.
  • IMN/AFME annual Global Bank ABS (West) conference.
  • Worldwide Business Research annual Fixed Income Leaders USA Summit.
  • ISLA 29th Annual Securities Finance and Collateral Management conference.  I have spoken (and sung) at this one before.
  • ICMA/Securities Lending Times annual AGM and conference.
  • Crane Data annual Money Fund Symposium. I have spoken at this conference before.
  • National Association of State Treasurers annual conference.  I’ve spoken and sung at this one.
  • IMN annual European Securities Finance conference.  I’ve attended this before. 
  • Worldwide Business Research annual Fixed Income & FX Leader Summit.
  • IMN annual ABS East conference. I’ve attended this before.
  • Worldwide Business Research Fixed Income Leaders 2020 conference
  • RMA will hold its 38th annual Conference on Securities Finance and Collateral Management in Amelia Island, FL on October 12-15.  I saw many of you last year in Boca Raton.  It was my 37th RMA I’ve attended. WAS CANCELLED FOR ONLY THE 2nd TIME (FIRST WAS AFTER 9/11/01).
  • Crane Data annual European Money Fund Symposium.    
  • Finadium Investors in Securities Lending Conference Europe.
  • American Financial Professionals (AFP) annual conference.
  • Finadium Rates & Repo conference in New York.  I’ve spoken and sponsored this one.
  • Risk.net annual conference. I’ve chaired this one.
  • SIFMA annual meeting.

Federal Reserve News:

The Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) is supposed to be a broad measure of the cost of borrowing cash overnight collateralized by US Treasury securities.  It is also reported by the NY Fed on its website.  It has been controversial and has been considered as the likely replacement for LIBOR.  SOFR includes trades in the Broad General Collateral Rate of Repo plus bilateral Treasury Repo transactions cleared through the DVP services at CCP FICC, ostensibly filtering out issues trading Special.  However, critics (and I am one) say that it only picks up the Offered Side of Repo (not a median), that it only picks up the small amount of DVP transactions cleared at FICC and Triparty Repo done at Bank of NY, ignoring the growing amount of bilateral (non-Triparty) repo being done peer-to-peer, dealer-to-dealer, and client-to-dealer, outside of FICC.   It is a good representation of where Money Funds (except for a few savvy ones who trade peer-to-peer) are paid on their cash versus US Treasuries in Repo each day by broker/dealers.  It almost completely ignores other sectors, particularly buy-side clients with collateral. My friend Scott Skyrm addressed this recently in his Repo Market Commentary, pointing out that since the beginning of April, GC Repo averaged 4.2bp above SOFR, and that the difference is even greater in the futures contracts (where it increases to 7.2-14.9bp spread, depending on the term.) He agrees with me that SOFR will always be lower than GC Repo, because it is skewed to the offer-side of the market, particularly with the inclusion of the tri-party repo rates. Of course, with Fed Funds, repo rates, and outright US Treasury yields trading near 0%, the actual bp differences have decreased, as there are so few bp to play with. My former colleague/partner/boss, Tom Wipf, pointed out on LinkedIn that Bloomberg now posts a spread adjustment for every LIBOR that is replaced by SOFR, which would be worthwhile following.

The Fed Funds rate, which is still the target rate of Federal Reserve monetary policy and changes to which are made by and announced by the FOMC at regularly scheduled meetings, is currently set at 0.00-0.25% (remember, the Fed has been using a target ‘range’ for a while). The Federal Reserve posts an Effective Fed Funds Rate (EFFR).  The Overnight Bank Funding Rate (OBFR), is also published by the NY Fed to capture the volume-weighted median of overnight federal funds transactions, Eurodollar transactions, and the domestic deposits reported by banks.  

The next FOMC meetings (and they are all two-day meetings so these are the second day, when they actually announce) are: 12/16/20. However, as we saw on 3/3/20, the FOMC can call emergency meetings at any time, even on weekends, especially during the pandemic crisis we are facing now.  For 2021, the Fed announced FOMC meetings for: 01/27/21, 03/17/21, 04/28/21, 06/16/21, 07/28/21, 09/22/21, 11/03/21, and 12/15/21. All of the meetings are two-day meetings. I have listed the 2nd day.

The Federal Reserve’s Reverse Repo Facility (RRP), which has over 300 approved participants (mostly banks, GSEs, and MMFs) is used as a tool by the Federal Reserve, along with its Fed Funds target-setting monetary policy, and IOER for depository institutions, to help control short-term interest rates. The Fed is currently only repoing out US Treasuries from its portfolio and typically only Overnight.

At the 11/05/20 FOMC meeting, the Fed kept interest rate target near 0% and said the economy is still well below pre-pandemic levels, despite certain markets moving to pre-pandemic levels or even record levels. The Federal Reserve, according to Bloomberg, just warned that assets will face big declines, if the virus continues to go unchecked. The US still faces a possible default wave and market declines, according to Reuters and the Fed. The Fed also formally called out climate change as a risk to financial stability, just as President-elect Biden has indicated that he wants the US to re-join the Paris Accord on Climate Change. With a change in Administration, a political fight is brewing, according to the NY Times, over whether to extend critical programs that the Federal Reserve implemented in March and April, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those programs are set to expire on 12/31/20. It is unclear whether President Trump’s administration, Fed Chair Jerome Powell, or Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin, have decided if they will continue the programs. Ironically, I just removed my write-up from my last two Repo Commentaries on the 5 programs, which include the buying of state and local municipalities’ bonds, another purchasing corporate debt, and another making loans to small and medium-sized businesses. With pressure mounting to let the programs sunset and a proposed additional fiscal stimulus plan unlikely to be passed by a lame-duck Congress, this may come at a bad time, when COVID-19 cases increase, as expected in December. An important decision for President-elect Biden will be whether to keep Jerome Powell as Chairman of the Federal Reserve, since the President nominates the Chair. Powell has called for Congress to pass more economic stimulus.

Earthquakes and Volcanoes:

The Earth remains seismically active. Buzzards Bay, MA actually had a 4.2-magnitude earthquake on Sunday.

Earthquakes 5.0+-magnitude, in the last week:

11/09 5.5 ENE of Kokopo, Papua New Guinea

11/08 5.1 central Mid-Atlantic Ridge

11/07 5.0 E of Big Lake, Alaska

11/07 6.1 NNE of Hihifo, Tonga

11/07 5.8 Volcano Islands, Japan

11/06 6.0 South Shetland Islands

11/06 5.2 Honshu, Japan

11/06 5.5 ENE of Hachinohe, Japan

11/06 5.2 NW of Shohimardon, Uzbekistan

11/06 5.2 NE of Lospalos, Timor Leste

11/05 5.2 NNW of Lae, Papua New Guinea

11/05 5.1 South of Alaska

11/04 5.0 SW of Pelabuhanratu, Indonesia

11/04 5.0 NE of San Benito, Philippines

11/04 5.3 SE of Easter Island

11/04 5.0 SE of Akutan, Alaska

11/04 5.2 South Sandwich Islands

Weather:

West Palm Beach, FL hunkered down this weekend for major flooding, rain, and winds from Tropical Storm Eta. Eta became the 12th Tropical Storm or Hurricane to make landfall in the US, breaking the record of 9 making landfall in 1916. Eta left 150 people dead or missing in Guatemala, before shifting to the East and hitting Cuba, before hitting the Florida Keys on a sharp Westerly turn into the Gulf of Mexico. It is expected to hang out and strengthen in the Gulf, before possibly making a second landfall somewhere in the Florida Panhandle. We are still getting major rain and flooding in Florida, as Eta hovers in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Atlantic Hurricane Season began June 1st and ends November 30th.  According to Accuweather, the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was expected to have a more-active-than-normal season. They expected about 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 4 of them major hurricanes.  CSU was predicting an above-average hurricane season in the Atlantic for 2020, with the likely absence of El Nino. Tropical and subtropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures are higher than normal, which tends to promote active hurricane seasons. Consequently, CSU predicted 16 named storms in the Atlantic, with 8 to become Hurricanes, and 4 to reach Category 3 or above strength. 

It turns out that it has been an extremely active tropical cyclone season, with a total of 29 tropical or subtropical cyclones, 28 named storms, 12 hurricanes, and 5 major hurricanes. 28 named storms ties it with the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season as the most active, and also only the second hurricane season to have to use the Greek letter storm-naming system. The unprecedented activity is believed to be due to an ongoing La Nina. The 2020 hurricane season has been particularly difficult for US residents during COVID-19, as there is an inherent incompatibility between strategies for population protection from hurricanes (evacuation and sheltering in groups) and effective approaches to slow the spread of COVID-19 (stay-at-home and physical distancing.) I didn’t even get to publish this Repo Commentary, before another Sub-Tropical Storm, Theta, formed in the Atlantic. This BREAKS the 2005 record of 28 named storms, now 29 named storms in 2020!

The 2019 season had 18 named storms, matching 1969 for the 4th most-lively season in the past 150 years.

The Pacific Hurricane Season started 5/1/20 and ended 11/1/20. There are not tropical cyclones currently in the Eastern North Pacific or Central North Pacific.

Sports News:       

MLB:

The 2019 MLB regular season began on 3/28 last year and ended on 9/30 (more than 6 months).  The Washington Nationals beat The Houston Astros in 7 games in The World Series. As these 2 teams played each other in March 2020, in the Spring Training facility that they share and that I sing the National Anthem at, the Spring Training season (and eventually MLB season) ended about 3/15, with the pandemic shutdown. MLB shut down both the Cactus League and Grapefruit League Spring Training about halfway through. Then, MLB cancelled the Minor League seasons for all 3 levels of the Minors.

MLB finally came to an agreement with the MLBPA, and played a Summer Camp (short Spring Training) leading up to a 60-game, shortened, regular season of the 30 teams still aligned in 6 divisions, and still with AL and NL distinctions, which started 7/23/20. The games were played without fans, but the teams still travelled and didn’t not have the ‘Bubble Format’ of the NHL and NBA. That proved to be a mistake, as many games had to be postponed, doubleheadered, or cancelled for several teams, as COVID-19 outbreaks ran through teams.  This “asterisked regular season” ended on 9/27/20. In the World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Tampa Rays 4 games to 3, to win in an exciting (and rare) 7-game series.

The COVID-19 pandemic also picked off the fan-favorite Little League World Series on 4/29, when it was cancelled for the first time in its history. It is typically held in August in South Williamsport, PA.

Golf:

The PGA Tour 2020 season came to a screeching halt in the middle of a tournament in March. The Masters tournament was postponed from April to this week in November. So, the PGA Championship and US Open have already been played. The British Open, to round out the Grand Slam events, was actually cancelled until 2021. Remember, Tiger Woods, on his second comeback, won the 2019 Masters. He hasn’t had a top 30 finished in the restarted 2020 golf season, though. He is a 33:1 shot to win this week’s Masters. Bryson DeChambeau is the favorite at 9:1 to win. Sergio Garcia has had to withdraw from Masters, after testing positive for COVID-19. Like all the tournaments this year, there will be no fans at Augusta. On Monday, after 9 playoff holes, Kevin Sutherland beat Paul Broadhurst for the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, at Phoenix Country Club. It was the final PGA Tour Champions event of the year. Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre clinched his maiden European Tour title at Cyprus Showdown on Sunday, ahead of Japan’s Masahiro Kawamura, at Aphrodite Hills Resort. On the PGA Tour, Carlos Ortiz became the first Mexican to win on Tour in 42 years, winning the Houston Open.

NFL:

The 100th NFL season ended last year, in Miami, in an entertaining 31-20 comeback Super Bowl victory for the Kansas City Chiefs over the San Francisco 49ers. The 2020 season began with no preseason games, with teams in their own stadiums, but with limited numbers of fans. Both, the ‘opting out’ of the season (Patriots had the most players opt out, with 8) and COVID-19 contractions, have wreaked havoc on team makeups, coaching staffs, and game results. Some games have been missing several star players. There have been a lot of other changes too, but mostly due to trades and injuries, some prior to the season. Former strong teams are no longer strong and former weak teams are no longer weak. Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and Antonio Brown, all former Patriots, now play for the Bucs. In the NL West, the Seattle Seahawks (6-2) have a one game lead over the Cardinals. In the NFC East, no one has a winning record, and the Eagles (3-4-1) are ahead of the Washington Football Team (which no longer has a team name). In the NFC South, the Saints (6-2) lead over Brady’s Bucs (6-3), as Brady no longer gets to feast on the AFC East teams, but must contend with NFC South teams. In the NFC North, the Packers (6-2) still lead. In the AFC East, the Bills (7-2) lead over the Dolphins (5-3). My Patriots (2-5) are no longer a factor behind QB Cam Newton. And the Jets (0-8) are the only winless team in the NFL. In the AFC South, the Titans (6-2) lead over the Colts. In the AFC North, the Steelers (8-0) are the only undefeated team in the NFL. In the AFC West, the Super Bowl champion Chiefs (8-1) are rolling over the new Las Vegas Raiders. We are halfway through the season now.

Tennis

The 134th Wimbledon, scheduled for 6/29-7/12 was cancelled for 2020.

Olympics

The Summer Olympics, which were to start in July 2020, were postponed until July 2021. This is the first time ever that a Summer Olympics was held on an odd year. The start of WWII in 1939, forced the 1940 Summer Olympics to be delayed a few weeks, and then canceled. The 1944 Olympic Games were also not held.  The Summer Olympics did not begin again until London in 1948. But, they were never postponed.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee, which had been scheduled for Memorial Day weekend, was cancelled for the first time since 1945.

Poker

The World Series of Poker didn’t fold, but the 2020 tournament,

Fighting

MMA and UFC pretty much continued through the COVID-19 pandemic, with just a few postponements and no fans in the stands.

Soccer

All leagues have now reopened but do not have fans in the seats.

NCAA Football:

In the beginning of 2020, LSU played Clemson for the College Football National Championship, and despite being down 17-7 in the 2nd quarter, came roaring back behind Heisman Trophy-winner QB Joe Burrow, and won 42-25. The NCAA announced that all Spring sports were cancelled, including NCAA Spring Football, and that all players in all sports would have another year of eligibility, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day was cancelled, the first time that has ever happened. Various college conferences have either said they will only play teams within their conferences in 2020 or have said they won’t play at all. There was a delayed start to the 2020 season, with some conferences delaying their starts by weeks. Some stadiums have had a small number of fans and others have had no fans. Needless to say, homefield advantage has been mostly eliminated, because of the lack of fans.

Here is the post-bowls, final AP Top 25 Poll for 2019-2020:

  1. LSU 13-0
  2. Clemson 14-1
  3. Ohio State 13-1
  4. Georgia 12-2
  5. Oregon 12-2
  6. Florida 11-2
  7. Oklahoma 12-2
  8. Alabama 11-2
  9. Penn State 11-2
  10. Minnesota 11-2
  11. Wisconsin 10-4
  12. Notre Dame 11-2
  13. Baylor 11-3
  14. Auburn 9-4
  15. Iowa 10-3
  16. Utah 11-3
  17. Memphis 12-2
  18. Michigan 9-4
  19. Appalachian State 13-1
  20. Navy 11-2
  21. Cincinnati 11-3
  22. Air Force 11-2
  23. Boise State 12-2
  24. UCF 10-3
  25. Texas 8-5

There was a very exciting game this past Saturday night, in which No.4 Notre Dame upset No.1 Clemson 47-40 in double OT. There have been several key upsets this season. Speaking of, earlier in the day No.5 Georgia fell to No.8 Florida 44-28. No.11 Miami survived a 44-41 scare by NC State. No.20 USC came from behind to beat unranked Arizona State. Here are the current 2020-2021 AP Top 25 College Football Rankings (which are a little weird because of some conferences’ late starts, like Big Ten, and COVID-19 cancelled games):

1.          Alabama (6-0)

2.          Notre Dame (7-0)

3.          Ohio State (3-0)

4.          Clemson (7-1)

5.          Texas A&M (5-1)

6.          Florida (4-1)

7.          Cincinnati (6-0)

8.          BYU (8-0)

9.          Miami (6-1)

10.        Indiana (3-0)

11.        Oregon (1-0)

12.        Georgia (4-2)

13.        Wisconsin (1-0)

14.        Oklahoma State (5-1)

15.        Coastal (7-0)

16.        Marshall (6-0)

17.        Iowa State (5-2)

18.        Oklahoma (5-2)

19.        SMU (7-1)

20.        USC (1-0)

21.        Texas (5-2)

22.        Liberty (7-0)

23.        Northwestern (3-0)

24.        Auburn (4-2)

25.        LA-Lafayette (6-1)

NCAA Hockey

Near the halfway point of the college hockey season in 2020, analysts were seeing Cornell University (my alma mater) and North Dakota as legitimate national title contenders to be in the Frozen Four. Cornell was ranked No.1 in the nation. That all froze, when the NCAA cancelled the college hockey season due to the COVID-19. The NCAA approved college hockey’s move to 3-on-3 overtime across all levels.

NCAA Basketball

As teams entered their week of Conference Championship Tournaments, prior to the Committee’s decision on the 68 seeds for the National Championship (also known as March Madness), it all came to a halt due to COVID-19.  One after another, conferences cancelled their tournaments and the NCAA cancelled the National Championship, before it ever started, on 3/12. The NCAA did the same with the Women’s Basketball Tournament.  

NHL:

Last season (2019) ended in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals on 6/12/19, when the St. Louis Blues beat my Bruins 4-3 in the Finals. The puck dropped on this asterisk season on 10/2/19. Then it all ended about 70 of 82 games into the regular season. On 5/28, in a very unusual move, the NHL concluded the 2019-2020 regular season and awarded my Boston Bruins with the Presidents’ Trophy (for having the best record), which is typically a curse for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for that team. The Bruins also received the William M. Jennings Trophy (both Bruins’ goalies Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak, for best goals-against avg.) and Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy (David Pastrnak for most goals, 48, tied with Alex Ovechkin). Ironically, halfway through the playoffs, Tuukka Rask suddenly announced that he was leaving the Bruins, leaving them with just their No.2 goalie. Seattle will finally get a new NHL team in 2021-2022 season, the Seattle Kraken.

The puck dropped (again) to conclude this season on 8/1/20. The teams played in the modified playoffs in two bubble arenas in Toronto and Edmonton, without fans. The Stanley Cup was won by the Tampa Bay Lightning (who ousted my Bruins due to the curse) over the Dallas Stars, 4 games to 2. The Finals were held in the Edmonton bubble, without fans.

NBA:

This year, the NBA season did not start until 10/22/19, 18 days later than last year. We were nearing the playoffs, when the pandemic shut the regular season down, with just a little over a month left. Late 6/4/20, the NBA reportedly approved a 22-team format to restart the season in the Summer. All games were played at the three venues at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fl, starting 7/31. The modified playoff format for this asterisk season began on 10/12. In the end, the Miami Heat lost the Championship to the LA Lakers.

Horse Racing:

For the first time since WWII, the Kentucky Derby was postponed from 5/2/20. It was run on 9/5/20, Labor Day weekend. The Preakness Stakes was moved from 5/16/20 to 10/3/20. The Belmont Stakes was shifted from 6/6 to 6/20. So, the 3rd leg of the Triple Crown became the 1st leg, the 1st leg became the 2nd leg, and the 2nd leg became the 3rd leg. It was awfully confusing and all the races were held without fans. Tiz the Law won the Belmont, but Authentic beat him in the Kentucky Derby, and the Preakness was won in an upset by a filly Swiss Skydiver.

Racing:

NASCAR began the 2020 season with 4 races at Daytona, followed by 3 scheduled races, the last on 3/8/20. But, then the pandemic shut everything down, wiping out the next 7 scheduled races.  The season finally restarted at Darlington Raceway on 5/17. The race was run without fans in the stands. NASCAR is making every effort to get as many of the originally schedule races in to the abbreviated season that had been postponed. Some races will be cancelled.

In the NASCAR Cup Series of 2019, Kyle Busch won in the last race at Homestead.  In 2018, the winner was Joey Logano, who beat Martin Truex Jr. in the final 15 laps of the final race at Homestead.  Truex Jr. won the crown in 2017.  The 2020 regular season will begin in February with the Daytona 500. Here is the complete (updated) schedule of races for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup in 2020 and the results. You will notice that, after 3/8/20, some races had to be postponed, some had to be cancelled, and some had to be replaced by other races. Also, NASCAR snuck in a lot more races in-between the typical Sunday races. In addition, NASCAR was the first professional sport to allow spectators back during the COVID-19 epidemic:

2/16 Daytona 500 (postponed by rain to 2/17)-winner Erik Jones

2/23 Las Vegas, Jiffy Lube Pennzoil 400-winner Joey Logano

3/1 Auto Club 400-winner Alex Bowman

3/8 Phoenix, FanShield 500-Joey Logano

3/15 Atlanta, Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500-POSTPONED

3/22 Homestead, Dixie Vodka 400-POSTPONED

3/29 Texas, O’Reilly Auto Parts 500-POSTPONED

4/5 Bristol, Food City 500-CANCELLED

4/19 Richmond, Toyota Owners 400-POSTPONED

4/26 Talladega, GEICO 500-POSTPONED

5/3 Dover, NASCAR Cup Race at Dover-POSTPONED

5/9 Martinsville, NASCAR Cup Race at Martinsville-POSTPONED

5/16 Charlotte, NASCAR All Star Open-CANCELLED

5/17 Darlington, The Real Heroes 400-winner Kevin Harvick

5/20 Darlington, Toyota 500-winner Denny Hamlin

5/24 Charlotte, Coca-Cola 600 as originally scheduled-winner Brad Keselowski

5/28 Charlotte, Alsco Uniforms 500-winner Chase Elliott

5/31 Kansas, Kansas 400-replaced by NASCAR CUP SERIES Food City Supermarket Heroes 500 at Bristol, which was scheduled for 4/5-winner Brad Keselowski

6/7 Michigan, FireKeepers Casino 400-replaced by Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 in Atlanta, which was scheduled for 3/15, winner Kevin Harvick

6/10 Martinsville, Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville, which was scheduled for 5/9, winner Martin Truex, Jr.

6/14 Sonoma, Toyota/Save Mart 350-replaced by Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead, Miami, which was scheduled for 3/22-winner Denny Hamlin

6/22 Chicagoland, Chicagoland 400-replaced by GEICO 500 at Talladega, which was scheduled for 4/26-winner Ryan Blaney

6/27 Pocono, inserted race Organics 325 in partnership with Rodale Institute-winner Kevin Harvick

6/27 Pocono, Worry-Free Weather Guarantee 350-as scheduled-winner Denny Hamlin

7/5 Indianapolis, Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400-as scheduled-winner Kevin Harvick

7/12 Kentucky, Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart-as scheduled-winner Cole Custer

7/15 Bristol, NASCAR All-Star Open, inserted race-Matt DiBenedetto

7/15 Bristol, NASCAR All-Star Race, inserted race-Chase Elliott

7/19 New Hampshire, Foxwoods Resort Casino 301, replaced by O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway-winner Austin Dillon

7/23 Super Start Batteries 400, also presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts, inserted race-winner Denny Hamlin

8/2 New Hampshire, Foxwoods Resort Casino 301, added-winner Brad Keselowski

8/8 Michigan, Firekeepers Casino 400-addedwinner Kevin Harvick

8/9 Michigan, Consumers Energy 400, as scheduled-winner Kevin Harvick

8/16 Watkins Glen, Go Bowling at The Glen-as scheduled-winner Chase Elliott

8/23 Dover, Drydene 400-as scheduled-winner Kevin Harvick

8/29 Daytona, Coke Zero Sugar 400-as scheduled-winner William Bryon

PLAYOFFS:

9/6 Darlington, Southern 500-winner Kevin Harvick

9/12 Richmond, Federated Auto Parts 400-Brad Keselowski

9/19 Bristol, Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race-Kevin Harvick

9/27 Las Vegas, South Point 400-Kurt Busch

10/4 Talladega, Alabama 500-Denny Hamlin

10/11 Charlotte, Bank of America ROVAL 400-Chase Elliott

10/18 Kansas, Hollywood Casino 400-Joey Logano

10/25 Texas, Texas 500-Kyle Busch

11/1 Martinsville, NASCAR Cup Fall Race-Chase Elliott

11/8 Phoenix, NASCAR Cup Series Championship-won by Chase Elliott. His dad, Bill Elliott, won the championship in 1988. They became the third father-son duo to win a title, joining the Petty’s (Lee and Richard) and Jarrett’s (Ned and Dale)

Formula One began with F1 Car Launch Dates for the various teams from 2/12 through 2/15 for Renault, Racing Point, McLaren, and Ferrari.  That was followed by the Pre-Season Testing schedule.  The opening of the season coincided with the COVID-19 lockdown, and the Australia Grand Prix was about to run, and FIA announced that the season would be delayed at least until the 5/3 Dutch Grand Prix.  It announced a number of race postponements. F1 will have an abbreviated 19 race season (instead of the record 22-race season planned), when it begins. The reports were that they were thinking about 7/5 as a start date, and that was good intel.  There will likely be no summer break and they anticipate that the season end date will extend beyond the original end date of 11/27-29. So, we lost the Australian GP, Bahrain GP, Vietnamese GP, Chinese GP, and Canadian GP. The season began on 7/5/20 with the Austrian GP. Here is the NEW 2020 schedule and results:

7/5/20       Austrian GP-winner V.Bottas

7/12/20     Steiermark GP-winner L.Hamilton

7/19/20     Hungarian GP-winner L.Hamilton

8/2/20       British GP-winner L.Hamilton

8/9/20       70th Anniversary GP-Verstappen

8/15/20     Spanish GP-L.Hamilton

8/30/20     Belgian GP-L.Hamilton

9/6/20       Italian GP-Gasly

9/13/20     Tuscan GP-L.Hamilton

9/27/20     Russian GP-L.Hamilton

10/25/20   Portugal GP-L.Hamilton

11/1/20     Italy GP-L.Hamilton

11/15/20   Turkey GP

11/29/20   Abu Dhabi GP

Here is the IndyCar Racing circuit (Indy cars are generally considered faster than F1 car along straight lines, mostly because their races are on oval tracks, while F1 tracks are more intricate, requiring better brakes and more aerodynamic grip than Indy cars).  In 2019, Josef Newgarden came in 8th in the last race, to just edge out Simon Pagenaud for the championship.  COVID-19 pandemic was going to allow only one IndyCar race to run so far this season, St. Petersburg, and it would be without spectators. However, just before the race, IndyCar announced that the rest of the season would be postponed at least until June 14, and several races would be cancelled, including this one. It then announced that all races through April would be cancelled. They have announced some postponements of later races, which I will update as I receive them (notice that IndyCar doubled up on some races on back-to-back days):

3/15 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg-POSTPONED to 10/25

3/22 Circuit of the Americas-CANCELLED

4/5 Grand Prix of Alabama-Takuma Sato-CANCELLED

4/19 Grand Prix at Long Beach-CANCELLED

4/26 AutoNation IndyCar Challenge at Austin, TX-CANCELLED

5/9 GMR Grand Prix of Indianapolis-postponed to 7/4

5/24 104th Indianapolis 500-postponed to 8/23

5/30 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 1-CANCELLED

5/31 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 2-CANCELLED

6/6 Genesys 600 at Texas Grand Prix-This race is expected to be run without spectators in a shortened 300 miles-winner Scott Dixon

6/21 Rev Group Grand Prix at Road America-POSTPONED

6/27 Indy Richmond 300-CANCELLED

7/4    GMR Grand Prix, Indianapolis (postponed from 5/9)-winner Scott Dixon

7/11 Rev Group GP at Road America-Race 1-winner Scot Dixon

7/12 Honda Indy Toronto-CANCELLED, replaced by Rev Group GP at Road America-Race 2-winner Felix Rosenqvist

7/17 Iowa 300-rescheduled as Grand Prix of Iowa-Race 1-winner Simon Pagenaud

7/18 Grand Prix of Iowa-Race 2, inserted race-winner Josef Newgarden

8/23 Bommarito Automotive Group 500-POSTPONED, replaced by Indianapolis 500, previously scheduled for 5/24-Takuma Soto

8/29 Bommarito Automotive Group 500 race 1-inserted-Scott Dixon

8/30 Bommarito Automotive Group 500 race 2-originally scheduled for 8/23-Josef Newgarden

9/12 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Race 1-inserted-Will Power

9/13 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Race 2-inserted-Colton Herta

9/13 Grand Prix of Portland, POSTPONED one week

9/19 Firestone Grand Prix at Monterey Race 1, inserted race-

9/20 Firestone Grand Prix at Monterey Race 2, as scheduled-Josef Newgarden

10/2 IndyCar Harvest GP 1 at Indianapolis-ADDED-Josef Newgarden

10/3 IndyCar Harvest GP 2 at Indianapolis-ADDED-Will Power

10/25 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg-ADDED as final race-Josef Newgarden

Scott Dixon was the Championship winner for 2020, edging out defending champion, Josef Newgarden.

Travel News:

Oddly, the US still finds itself quarantined by other countries at the moment. Also, several countries, particularly in Europe, have had a major spike in COVID-19 cases and deaths, leading to imposition of re-closing of establishments and closing of borders. The US Department of State advises all US citizens to read the country-specific Travel Advisories and US Embassy COVID-19 pages for updates worldwide. I studied the travel.state.gov color-coded global map, and they have most of Europe, China, Mexico, and others as “Reconsider Travel.” Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, Argentina, India, Indonesia, Russia, as well as others, are listed as “Do Not Travel”. Experts and S&P Global Ratings now believe the hotel industry may not recover until 2023, even if a COVID-19 vaccine is released next year. Year-over-year revenue per available room, which is a closely watched metric for gauging hotel health has decreased 50% in 2020.  Marriott announced that its Q3 revenues dropped 65.9% worldwide and 65.4% in North America. Wynn Resorts announced that Q3 operating revenues dropped 77.5% year/year. Speaking of Las Vegas, the drop in tourism there has prompted some Las Vegas hotels to close for midweek. S&P has slashed ratings on about 75% of all rated US lodging companies since April 2020.

S&P has since focused on theme parks and cruise lines, for ratings downgrades. If you ever wondered how much it would cost to buy a cruise line, the Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV) fleet auction is over, with 5 ships heading to new owners (or to scrap) for pennies on the dollar during the sealed bidding process. The 1992 Vasco Da Gama sold for $10.2 million, the 1988 Columbus sold for $5.3 million, the 1987 Astor sold for $1.7 million, the 1985 Magellan sold for $3.4 million, and the 1965 Marco Polo sold for $2.8 million. Three other modern cruise ships were just scrapped in Turkey. Carnival was expected to make an announcement on its Operations yesterday. I remember reporting on a 1/6/2020 cruise industry article that proclaimed that a record 25 new cruise ships, ranging from expedition and luxury vessels to large contemporary megaships, would debut in 2020. That turned out to be very unfortunate timing. All major cruise lines, this week, extended their suspensions until 2021 in the US, due to the new CDC Conditional Sailing Order. They had planned on resuming cruising in December 2020. In the last few months, the European cruise lines have been surprisingly successful with sailing in Italy, Germany, Greece, and the Canary Islands. Carnival’s new Mardi Gras cruise ship has departed on its second round of sea trials. It will be its largest ship. The World Dream has officially kickstarted cruises from Singapore. The cruises are called Seacation voyages, as they have no destinations. Carnival-owned Seabourn reports strong booking volume for its 2022 World Cruise: Extraordinary Horizons.” Costa Cruises announced that it would suspend operations for its one-week cruises to Greece. MSC cruise ship sailings have been suspended, due to significant travel restrictions in France and Germany.

The positive vaccine news is coming just in time for the airline industry. The airline industry is still furloughing employees and aircraft, reducing their flights, as demand still hasn’t picked up. Delta managed to avoid furloughing pilots. Ottawa says Federal support in Canada for the airline industry is contingent on refunding customers. Korean Air actually reported a profit. Singapore Airlines sees COVID-19 procedures as pioneering airline health and safety initiatives for the future of travel. Mexican low-cost carrier Interjet could no longer pay for fuel, and was forced to cancel flights.

The Thanksgiving holiday, the number one travel weekend in the US, will be an important determinant of the travel & hospitality industry. But, the government and authorities are already advising the public to avoid social gatherings with families greater than 5 people and reintroducing lockdowns in some areas, which could suppress some of the travel numbers.  Looking at the map of COVID-19 travel restrictions by US State, there are currently statewide restrictions in Alaska, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Kansas, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island, Vermont as of 10/27/20. These could include 14-day quarantines or statewide Phase restrictions on businesses.

Health News:  

As of this evening (11/9/20), globally, more than 1,259,245 people have died from COVID-19.  More than 50.7 million people have been infected with COVID-19. In the US, confirmed cases of COVID-19 have surpassed 10 million people. Of that, US deaths from the pandemic have surpassed 237,742. The US has the most deaths from COVID-19 of any country in the world, followed by Brazil (162,397), India (126,611), Mexico (95,027), and UK (49,154). France and Italy, like the US, are reporting record cases, as COVID-19 continues to ravage Europe. In the US, daily new cases now top 100,000. Navajo Nation, after a weekend lockdown, is now experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases.

There are dozens of COVID-19 vaccines now in clinical trials. Eleven vaccines are now in late-stage trials. The biggest COVID-19 news is an announcement from Pfizer, on Monday, that is has a vaccine that is more than 90% effective and has had positive early results from its COVID-19 trial, putting it in the lead of a frenzied global race to find a vaccine. If true, that would put its effectiveness on par with childhood vaccines for diseases like measles. It believes that by the end of the year, it could produce enough doses to immunize 15-25 million people. Those people will likely be on the front lines in hospitals.  The general public, according to doctors, probably wouldn’t receive the two-dose vaccine until sometime in February to June next year. The US Government’s Operation Warp Speed, an effort to rush a vaccine to market, has promised Pfizer (or others) $1.95 billion to deliver 100 million doses of the vaccine to the federal government, which will then be given to Americans for free. It is important to note that Pfizer’s announcement was a news release, not a peer-reviewed medical journal.

In parallel good news about the COVID-19 vaccine, the US military announced that it is preparing to lend a hand in the logistics of delivering the vaccine in massive numbers, efficiently, and very quickly. The military will NOT be administering the vaccines, however.  One logistic that the military will have to tackle is that the Pfizer vaccine currently needs to be stored at -70 degrees. According to officials in Operation Warp Speed, more volunteers are needed to participate in clinical trials. They are looking to have some 30,000 patients for each clinical trial of the 6 vaccine candidates here in the US. Moderna, one of the vaccine candidates has already recruited 30,000 patients for its Phase 3 clinical trial. Moderna is said to use a similar process of using the messenger RNA, rather than a killed virus, to produce the proteins that get the body’s immune system to fight the virus. President-elect Joe Biden, on Monday, praised the Pfizer news, but told Americans that even if it is found to be effective, it won’t be available to most Americans until months from now. He re-emphasized that public mask-wearing and social distancing are critical for the months until the vaccine is available. President-elect Biden has also announced that he intends to have the US rejoin the World Health Organization, unwinding President Trump’s withdrawal from the WHO. Some doctors are wondering if a second wave of the pandemic is starting in NYC.

In other health news, researchers have ended a clinical trial of a drug to prevent HIV early, because the results were so convincing. The effective shot works better than the daily pill in women. It would be administered in 6 injections per year, rather than 365 daily pills. Select romaine lettuce has been recalled for E.coli risk.

Animal News:

Shark attacks are rare in the Red Sea coastal region of Egypt in recent years. But, it 2010, a string of shark attacks killed one European tourist and maimed several others off Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt’s Red Sea resort, right after a deep-water port was constructed near the area. Last week, near the same area, two Ukrainian tourists and a guide were attacked while snorkeling by a shark, believed to have been a oceanic white-tip shark, and the 12-year-old boy lost his arm, the tour guide lost his leg, and the boy’s mother had several light injuries. Scientists have long wondered how did the first animals appear? Uppsala University researchers and colleagues in Denmark have jointly found in Greenland, embryo-like fossils that are up to 570-million-years old. Not only does this reveal that organisms like this type were dispersed throughout the world, but may give clues as to how animals suddenly appeared around 540 million years ago. The latter is well substantiated by the scientific community. The event in evolution is referred to as the “Cambrian Explosion”, and has many fossils from a huge number of creatures. But, this is the first time scientists have found what could be animal fossils from the Precambrian Era in the Portfjeld Formation. Similar finds were uncovered in southern China’s Doushantuo Formation, which is nearly 600-million-years old, more than 3 decades ago. A dog and 8 people were shot in Nashville during a fight over the animal. I was reading an interesting article, which posed the question, “which species did humans force into extinction first?” They  mentioned the dodo (which was only about 350 years ago), the woolly mammoth (10,500 years ago), passenger pigeon (106 years ago), Eurasian cave bears (40,000 years ago), etc. After much research into the fossil history, scientists found that large megafauna (giant bears, sloths, elephants, antelopes, etc.), gigantic prehistoric relatives of current species, began getting wiped out in their territories, as hominids, Neanderthals, and Homo sapiens left Africa some 125,000 years ago and began migrating en masse to other continents. Unlike the extinction of non-avian dinosaurs, believed to have been wiped out by an asteroid about 65 million years ago, every time our ancestors stepped foot in a new region, the large animals were wiped out in 1,000 years or less, perhaps because they represented food, or a threat, or a competitor for the same food to the incoming humans. And, it was not because the necessarily hunted them, but simply started destroying some of their habitat with fires and dwellings, and maybe hunted all of the herbivores that the big animals ate. The scientists who did the study actually postulate that fossil records in Africa may show that human ancestors were already forcing megafauna into extinction before they left Africa.

Entertainment News:

Beloved game show host of Jeopardy!, Alex Trebek, died on Sunday at the age of 80, after his well-publicized 20-month battle with pancreatic cancer. He was a 7-time winner of the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Game Show Host for his work on Jeopardy! He actually hosted many game shows in his career, starting in 1963, when he worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Company. In 1973, he moved to the US and began hosting The Wizard of Odds game show. Lucille Ball, the star of I Love Lucy, was a big fan of Trebek’s gameshow High Rollers, and told her friend, producer Merv Griffin, to hire Trebek when they decided to resurrect the gameshow Jeopardy! Trebek would go on to host that show from 1984 until his death. On April Fools’ Day in 1997, Trebek and friend Pat Sajak, host of Wheel of Fortune, switched places, with Trebek hosting Wheel of Fortune, and Sajak hosting Jeopardy!  Interestingly, Trebek didn’t access the Internet, didn’t blog, didn’t text, and didn’t Tweet. He just used his cellphone to make calls. He didn’t care for social media either.  Scooby-Doo co-creator, Ken Spears, has died at age 82. One of my favorite actors and definitely my favorite (and first) James Bond, Sean Connery, died at age 90 on 10/31. CBS has announced its Fall Lineup. In October, Genesis drummer, Phil Collins, sued his 3rd wife, Orianne, claiming she refused to leave his Miami Beach home. They married in 1999, had 2 sons, split in 2006 and were divorced in 2008. She married another man, but in 2016 confirmed that she had reconciled with Phil. However, they did not remarry. Then, she secretly married another man this Summer and broke up with Phil. Now, she is revealing startling things in her court documents about the star. I’m going to have to unfriend her on Facebook. Beyonce has joined forces with Peloton to launch workout classes. I want either a Peloton or that Mirror thing, so I can work out at home! Netflix has renewed The Umbrella Academy. I’m still annoyed with them, after they announced they were going to produce a 3rd season of Away and then just announced that they have scrapped it. I binge-watched that, along with Ozarks, Dateline, 48 Hours, 20/20, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Bloodline, City something, and more. I’ve only watched on regular TV some golf, football, hockey, news, Diners Driveins and Dives, and Below Deck. There are 94 new Christmas movies set to be released! Teresa Giudice of Real Housewives of New Jersey, has revealed her new man, Luis ‘Louie’ Ruelas, who replaces her ex-husband Joe Giudice, who was jailed and then deported. Southern Charm alum Cameran Eubanks (my favorite on that show) is releasing a memoir.

Technology & Space News:

As COVID-19 cases increase, yet the likelihood of a vaccine increases, bosses and workers will be faced with tough decisions about whether to return workers to the office. Two employees of Virgin Hyperloop traveled on a small system that the company built near Las Vegas, in its first manned test. The employees within their hyperloop pod reached 107 mph in just over six seconds, on Sunday.  The Hyperloop technology is being designed to transport people and cargo at speeds of up to 600 mph! The pod is levitated by magnets and moves inside a vacuum tube. The almost science fiction mode of transportation, was first described in 2012 by Elon Musk of SpaceX and Tesla. Although his companies are not working on the idea, he offered it up to any companies that wanted to exploit it, and several companies are looking to commercialize the technology, which they hope will move passengers between cities and cargo to/from ports. For example, a trip between Los Angeles and San Francisco could take less than an hour. Virgin Hyperloop’s Chief Executive was the head of NY’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Transport for London, so he has eyes on hyperloop technology becoming a mass transit system within this century. Before we begin living like the Jetsons though, there are some major hurdles, such as no large object striking the tube, expensive maintenance for the tube, crossing tubes and turns in tubes, expensive rights of way, etc.  Stock-trading platforms in Europe and the US struggled yesterday to meet the surging demand from retail investors, who were hoping to ride the rally sparked by the positive news about the vaccine trial. Several systems reportedly experienced issues. I see that MIT Sloan finance lecturers expounded on 3 key areas in which financial firms could benefit from the use of natural language processing: automation, data enrichment, and search and discovery. This would not require a PhD in machine learning. This is interesting to me, because when I was hired at Morgan Stanley into Bill Cook’s MIS program (which was featured on the cover of Time magazine), he emphasized the use of natural programming language, which is what we learned on. It was based on English prose, not computer language, which is why they hired Liberal Arts majors for the program.  I wonder how related the two subjects are?

US News:

President Trump fired his Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, on Monday, via Twitter.

The government is supposedly finalizing the HEROES Act for an addition check to taxpayers.  President-elect Biden says that he will rejoin the Paris Agreement Global Climate Pact. The FBI said several hundred investigations related to the PPP have been opened, involving loans totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. 73 defendants have been charged by the Dept. of Justice so far. The US Treasury and IRS have approved legislation enacted by several US states that provides businesses with a workaround on the $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions. Noncorporate firms will be allowed to pay state income taxes at the entity level, rather than at the previously enforced individual level.

In a survey by the Census Bureau, 47.5% of adults are from households that have lost income because of the COVID-19 lockdown. The Labor Department reported that the Unemployment Rate fell to 6.9% in October, a more favorable rate than analysts expected. Meanwhile, the FRB NY’s Survey of Consumer Expectations showed workers’ fears of joblessness have dropped slightly, from 16.6% in September to 15.5% in October.

International News:

The EU is imposing tariffs on $4 billion of US goods over a trade dispute regarding Boeing. The World Trade Organization last month sided with the EU in the year-long battle, faulting the US government for breaking trade laws by providing tax breaks to Boeing. incidentally, the US currently faces two dozen trade disputes at the WTO, mostly in response to its trade wars with Europe and China. Canada also seems relieved by Biden’s win, after Trump’s tariffs and insults. Russia brokered a deal between Armenia and Azerbaijan, with the latter winning many of the concessions it has sought for decades in negotiations over the Nagorno-Karabakh separatist region. In unrelated news, Azerbaijan apologized for downing a Russian military helicopter and killing two people. Longtime Palestinian chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, has died at age 65. The President of Peru, Martin Vizcarra, has been impeached by Congress, amid the COVID-19 pandemic and a constitutional crisis. United Arab Emirates has changed its laws to attract foreign tourists and investment. Brazil has halted trial of a Chinese vaccine. A Vatican report has concluded that disgraced prelate McCarrick’s ascent was based on “inaccurate and incomplete” testimony from bishops, regarding his denials about sexual misconduct. President Trump’s reported defeat is not helping supporter and British PM Boris Johnson in urgent Brexit talks. In eastern France, a capsule was discovered, probably dropped by a carrier pigeon, that contained a message with details of German military drills from WWI. Oxford University Press changed its definitions of “woman” in its dictionaries, after a petition called the previous definitions “sexist”.

Repo Commentary-07/28/20

IMG_7145IMG_7133IMG_7144IMG_7150IMG_7151IMG_7165IMG_7112IMG_7114IMG_7118IMG_7120IMG_7129IMG_7091IMG_7092IMG_7094IMG_7103IMG_7107IMG_7052IMG_7064IMG_7068IMG_7081IMG_7085IMG_7035[1]IMG_7044IMG_7045IMG_7049IMG_7051IMG_7035IMG_7037IMG_7038IMG_7039IMG_7041IMG_7014IMG_7017IMG_7032IMG_7034IMG_7036IMG_7018IMG_7019IMG_7025IMG_7030IMG_7031

It is Day 140 (on 7/28) since the start of the COVID-19 American shelter-in-place/quarantine response (7 states did not issue a shelter-in-place order), and the day that the WHO declared it a ‘pandemic’ (3/11/20).

I hope that you and your families are staying healthy and safe. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its literal mortal, economic, and mental toll on millions of people around the world. I now have friends whose family members have died of COVID-19. In fact, one friend lost her brother and mother to COVID-19, but she herself survived.

I am still NOT retired from the Securities Finance industry. I have been contracted as a consultant to write about the Repo industry for an educational platform (see Repo section). I am also consulting with an electronic trading platform, and making great headway on providing a large electronic solution for several markets. I am also available FOR HIRE as a consultant, with almost 38 years of experience in the Repo & Securities Lending industry. So, if you need my Securities Financing expertise or access to my vast network of about 9000 clients, call my mobile (646-753-1300), email (jeffkidwell82@gmail.com), or hit me up on LinkedIn.

My Repo Commentary is posted FREE (it’s actually always been free) on my website: http://www.repocommentary.com. It also pops up on LinkedIn, the Global Investors Group (ISF Magazine) website, and on CentralBanks.com as an op-ed. I am interested in entertaining you and taking your mind off the pressures you are under. I have not written one for more than a month, as I have been very busy leading up to my full knee replacement surgery on 6/30. I am healing very fast though (already on the stationary bike), so hopefully that will only be a couple more weeks of recovery. Still, with the new consulting work taking top priority, you may not see a new Repo Commentary for a while.

Since its inception in 1982, the Repo Commentary does not represent the views of any of my former firms and reflects only my opinion and includes only publicly available information. I make a strong effort to attribute any quotes or thoughts that are not my own, I do not make any marketing spiels, and I really am more interested (70-80%) in entertaining you than boring (20-30%) you with too much market info. Feel free, as always, to send me information or pictures, to make it better!

Holidays or Events (07/28):

• Bagpipe Appreciation Day
• Cross Atlantic Communication Day
• Gary Gygax Day
• National Chicken Finger Day
• National Scotch Day
• National Crème Brulee Day
• National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day
• Take Your Pants For a Walk Day
• Take Your Houseplants for a Walk Day
• Day of Commemoration of the Great Upheaval (Canada)
• Fiestas Patrias (Peru)
• Liberation Day (San Marino)
• Olavsoka Eve (Faroe Islands)
• World Hepatitis Day

Some Famous People Born on 07/28 in History:

• 1783-Friedrich Wilhelm von Bismarck, German army officer and writer
• 1887-Marcel Duchamp, French-American journalist and author
• 1901-Rudy Vallee, American actor, singer, and saxophonist
• 1907-Earl Tupper, American inventor and businessman, founded Tupperware Brands
• 1929-Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, American journalist and socialite, wife of President John F. Kennedy
• 1943-Bill Bradley, American basketball player and politician
• 1946-Jim Davis, American cartoonist, created Garfield
• 1947-Sally Struthers, American actress
• 1949-Vida Blue, American baseball player and sportscaster
• 1951-Doug Collins, American basketball player and coach
• 1954-President of Venezuela
• 1974=Elizabeth Berkley, American actress

Daily Weird Facts:

Morocco was the first country to recognize the US as an independent country and during the Revolutionary War, the Sultan of Morocco promised safe passage from Barbary Pirates for all merchant American ships traveling across the Atlantic Ocean.

Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:

“100 years ago everyone owned a horse and only the rich had cars. Today, everyone has cars and only the rich own horses.”–anonymous

Currency and Commodity Markets:

Oil prices closed at:

$74.34/barrel on 10/5
$47.66/barrel on 12/23
$48.63 on 01/07
$52.31/barrel on 01/16
$55.26/barrel on 2/3
$55.41/barrel on 2/26
$73.77/barrel on 4/29
$63.28/barrel on 5/17
$54.07/barrel on 6/18
$55.96/barrel on 7/24
$58.31/barrel on 9/10
$53.50/barrel on 10/2
$59.10/barrel on 12/8
$58.81/barrel on 1/17
$54.39/barrel on 2/7
$35.92/barrel on 3/11
$27.15/barrel on 3/18
$29.90/barrel on 3/23
$27.43/barrel on 3/27
$24.90/barrel on 4/01
$31.80/barrel on 4/12
$28.31/barrel on 4/17
$20.03/barrel on 4/27
$26.78/barrel on 5/04
$30.39/barrel on 5/09
$35.69/barrel on 5/20
$39.78/barrel on 6/04
$43.37/barrel on 7/27

Oil prices have rallied back to pre-COVID-19 prices. The price of gasoline at my West Palm Beach station has slipped 4 cents in the last week, at $1.82/gallon.

One USD versus the Yen was trading at (these are all around Repo Commentary dates):

112.20 on 12/24
108.60 on 01/07
109.07 on 01/16
103.18 on 02/03
104.86 on 2/25
103.86 on 5/17
102.59 on 6/18
102.43 on 7/24
101.72 on 9/10
102.16 on 10/02
102.96 on 12/06
104.30 on 01/17/20
104.80 on 02/07/20
99.23 on 03/11/20
101.67 on 03/18/20
104.77 on 03/24/20
102.22 on 04/13/20
102.14 on 04/19/20
101.57 on 04/27/20
106.82 on 05/04/20
100.80 on 05/10/20
102.04 on 05/20/20
103.32 on 06/04/20
100.05 on 07/27/20

One Euro was trading on:

12/24 at $1.1426
01/07 at $1.1478
01/16 at $1.1396
02/03 at $1.2047
02/25 at $1.1955
05/17 at $1.1761
06/18 at $1.1825
07/24 at $1.1740
09/10 at $1.1623
10/02 at $1.1504
12/06 at $1.1688
01/17 at $1.1721
02/07 at $1.1543
03/11 at $1.1937
03/18 at $1.1575
03/24 at $1.1400
04/13 at $1.1523
04/19 at $1.1394
04/27 at $1.1407
05/04 at $1.0903
05/10 at $1.1402
05/20 at $1.1522
06/04 at $1.1795
07/27 at $1.2314

One British Pound was trading on:

12/24 at $1.2655
01/07 at $1.2770
01/16 at $1.2880
02/03 at $1.3758
02/25 at $1.3728
05/17 at $1.3427
06/18 at $1.3157
07/24 at $1.3070
09/10 at $1.2959
10/02 at $1.2882
12/06 at $1.3819
01/17 at $1.3753
02/07 at $1.3574
03/11 at $1.354
03/18 at $1.2665
03/24 at $1.2231
04/13 at $1.3143
04/19 at $1.3058
04/27 at $1.3052
05/04 at $1.2435
05/10 at $1.3005
05/20 at $1.2844
06/04 at $1.3136
07/27 at $1.3458

One USD versus the CAD at:

1.3442 on 12/24
1.3297 on 01/07
1.3255 on 01/16
1.2492 on 2/03
1.2492 on 2/25
1.2800 on 5/17
1.2740 on 6/18
1.2480 on 7/24
1.2520 on 9/10
1.2560 on 10/02
1.2530 on 12/06
1.2390 on 01/17
1.2640 on 02/07
1.3020 on 03/11
1.3540 on 03/18
1.3690 on 03/24
1.3250 on 04/13
1.3390 on 04/19
1.3350 on 04/27
1.4090 on 05/04
1.3250 on 05/10
1.3250 on 05/20
1.2850 on 06/04
1.2730 on 07/27

The USD has weakened against the Yen and Canadian dollar, but rallied against the British Pound and the Euro.

Gold closed on 9/09 at $1504.90/ounce. On 10/02, it closed at $1498.70/ounce. On 12/6, it closed at $1,464.40/ounce. On 1/17, it closed at $1557.30/ounce. On 2/07, it closed at $1,576.20/ounce. On 3/11, it closed at $1,641/ounce. On 3/18, it is trading at $1,487.60. On 3/24 it was trading at $1,659.80, way up. On 3/27 it is trading at $1,627.00. On 4/01, it is trading at $1,591.60. On 4/12, it skyrocketed to $1,738.00. Yet, on the eve of 4/20, it has backed off a little to $1,694.50. On 4/27, it traded at $1,724.20/ounce. On 5/04, it was trading $1,712.70. On 5/10, it was trading at $,1,708.90/ounce. On 5/20, it was trading at $1,753.80/ounce. On 6/04, it was trading at $1,726.80/ounce. Monday morning, Gold reached a record $1,944.71/ounce, as investors continued to pour money into the safe-haven. The combination of no end in sight for the COVID-19 pandemic fear, escalating US-China tensions, low-interest rate policies, negative real rates, extremely accommodative monetary policy, enormous amounts of global fiscal spending, and a weak US Dollar, have created the ‘perfect storm’ for Gold. Goldman Sachs says that gold could hit $2000/ounce during the next 12 months, Citgroup is giving it a 30% chance that gold will exceed $2000 by year-end, and Bank of America is predicting gold will reach $3,000 over the next 18 months.

Bitcoin was trading at (around Repo Commentary Dates):

$8,185.21 on 7/25
$6,350 on 10/5
$3,774.97 on 12/24/18
$3,7774.97 on 01/07
$3,598.90 on 01/16
$3,421.10 on 02/06
$3,826.44 on 02/26
$8,100.00 on 05/16
$7,215.79 on 05/17
$9,088.59 on 06/18
$11,919.30 on 06/25
$9,790.37 on 07/24
$10,183.90 on 09/10
$8,235.46 on 10/02
$7,470.41 on 12/06
$8,876.87 on 01/17/20
$9,793.18 on 02/07/20
$7,871.60 on 03/11/20
$5,216.64 on 03/18/20
$6,728.03 on 03/24/20
$6,646.60 on 03/27/20
$6,443.44 on 03/31/20
$6,908.13 on 04/12/20
$7,128.45 on 04/19/20
$7,748.29 on 04/27/20
$8,775.36 on 05/04/20
$8,771.73 on 05/10/20
$9,525.54 on 05/20/20
$9,794.46 on 06/04/20
$10,849.00 on 07/27/20

After rebounding in 2019 dramatically since the beginning of the year, although certainly not to its $19,000 high, Bitcoin hit a wall at the beginning of the Summer of 2019, then rallied during the Summer, and tumbled again in Q4, and had rallied in early in 2020. It then gave up all of those 2020 gains with the COVID-19 contagion. It rallied sharply in the last few weeks before the ‘halving event’ on 5/12/20, its 3rd halving event. In fact, this 15% rally in the past week is probably because of the allure of having twice as many bitcoins for owners, similar to a stock-split. Last week’s gain was part of the first seven-week rally streak in Bitcoin in a year. In fact, Bitcoin is up over 130% since 3/13/20, when it hit $3,867. This will be the 3rd ‘halving event’ for Bitcoin, since its inception, and will occur on 5/12/20. Since the halving, Bitcoin has rallied strongly, near the highs at the beginning of the Summer of 2019.

Global Financial News:

Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) reminds that comments are due regarding the time and cost of filing Bank Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) by financial institutions of Suspicious Transactions. The Metropolitan Government of Tokyo listed its new 5-year USD benchmark bond on the London Stock Exchange’s Main Market. ISDA and ISLA have agreed to collaborate on two key initiatives to deliver digital solutions to their respective memberships on CDM framework.

US Market News:

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on global economies, corporate profits, and the DJIA.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average continues to experience enormous volatility recently, however, it appears to have been range-bound between 25,000 and 27,500. Originally, it was due to the shutdowns of COVID-19, then it was due to central banks’ efforts to calm the markets, and now it may be because of political and racial unrest. However, over the last almost 3 months, the DJIA has recovered everything that it lost. Here are the latest DJIA closes for the past month or so, just to demonstrate the massive volatility:

07/24/20 26,469.89
07/23/20 26,652.33
07/22/20 27,005.84
07/21/20 26,840.40
07/20/20 26,680.87
07/17/20 26,671.95
07/16/20 26,734.71
07/15/20 26,870.10
07/14/20 26,642.59
07/13/20 26,085.80
07/10/20 26,075.30
07/09/20 25,706.09
07/08/20 26,067.28
07/07/20 25,890.18
07/06/20 26,287.03
07/02/20 25,827.36
07/01/20 25,734.97
06/30/20 25,812.88
06/29/20 25,595.80
06/26/20 25,015.55
06/25/20 25,745.60
06/24/20 25,445.94
06/23/20 26,156.10
06/22/20 26,024.96
06/19/20 25,871.46
06/18/20 26,080.10
06/17/20 26,119.61
06/16/20 26,289.98
06/15/20 25,763.16
06/12/20 25,605.54
06/11/20 25,128.17
06/10/20 26,989.99
06/09/20 27,272.30
06/08/20 27,572.44
06/05/20 27,110.98
6/04/20 26,281.82
6/03/20 26,269.89
6/02/20 25,742.65
6/01/20 25,475.02
5/29/20 25,383.11
5/28/20 25,400.64
5/27/20 25,548.27
5/26/20 24,995.11
5/22/20 24,465.16
5/21/20 24,474.12
5/20/20 24,575.90
5/19/20 24,206.86
5/18/20 24,597.37
5/15/20 23,685.42
5/14/20 23,625.34
5/13/20 23,247.57
5/12/20 23,764.76
5/11/20 24,221.99
5/08/20 24,331.32
5/07/20 23,875.89
5/06/20 23,664.64
5/05/20 23,883.09
5/04/20 23,749.76
5/01/20 23,723.69
4/30/20 24,345.72
4/29/20 24,633.86
4/28/20 24,101.55
4/27/20 24,133.78
4/24/20 23,775.27
4/23/20 23,515.26
4/22/20 23,475.82
4/21/20 23,018.88
4/20/20 23,650.44
4/17/20 24,242.49
4/16/20 23,537.68
4/15/20 23,504.35
4/14/20 23,949.76
4/13/20 23,390.77
4/10/20 market closed
4/09/20 23,719.37
4/08/20 23,433.57
4/07/20 22,653.86
4/06/20 22,679.99
4/03/20 21,052.53
4/02/20 21,413.44
4/01/20 20,943.51
3/31/20 21,917.16
3/30/20 22,327.48
3/27/20 21,636.78
3/26/20 22,552.17
3/25/20 21,200.55
3/24/20 20,704.91
3/23/20 18,591.93
3/20/20 19,173.98
3/19/20 20,087.19
3/18/20 19,898.92
3/17/20 21,237.38
3/16/20 20,188.52
3/13/20 23,185.62
3/12/20 21,200.62
3/11/20 23,553.22
3/10/20 25,018.16
3/09/20 23,851.02
3/06/20 25,864.78
3/05/20 26,121.28
3/04/20 27,090.86
3/03/20 25,917.41
3/02/20 26,703.32
2/28/20 25,409.36
2/27/20 25,766.64
2/26/20 26,957.59
2/25/20 27,081.36
2/24/20 27,960.80
2/21/20 28,992.41
2/20/20 29,219.98
2/19/20 29,348.03
2/12/20 29,551.42 record high

The Dow Jones closed at (Repo Commentary Dates):

26,656.77 on 9/20/18
26,447.05 on 10/5/18
21,792.20 on 12/23/18
21,712.53 on 12/26/18
24,207.16 on 01/16/19
25,063.89 on 2/06/19
26,106.47 on 2/25/19
25,862.68 on 5/16/19
26,465.54 on 6/18/19
27,269.97 on 7/24/19
26,793.09 on 9/10/19
26,229.31 on 10/02/19
28,015.06 on 12/06/19
29,348.10 on 01/17/20
29,185.07 on 02/07/20
29,551.42 on 02/12/20 record high
23,553.22 on 03/11/20
21,237.38 on 03/17/20
18,591.93 on 03/23/20
22,552.17 on 03/26/20
21,917.16 on 03/31/20
23,719.37 on 04/09/20
24,242.49 on 04/17/20
24,133.78 on 04/27/20
24,331.32 on 05/08/20
24,206.86 on 05/19/20
26,281.82 on 06/04/20
26,469.99 on 07/24/20

S&P 500 has closed on:

10/5/18 at 2,885.58
12/26/18 at 2,467.70
01/07/19 at 2,549.69
01/16/19 at 2,616.10
02/06/19 at 2,706.53
02/25/19 at 2,799.34
05/16/19 at 2,876.32
06/18/19 at 2,917.75
07/24/19 at 3,019.56
09/10/19 at 2,969.04
10/02/19 at 2,906.94
12/06/19 at 3,145.91
01/17/20 at 3,329.62
02/07/20 at 3,335.27 down 10.51 from new all-time high
03/12/20 at 2,480.64
03/17/20 at 2,529.19
03/23/20 at 2,237.40
03/26/20 at 2,630.07
03/31/20 at 2,584.59
04/09/20 at 2,789.82
04/17/20 at 2,830.88
04/24/20 at 2,854.65
05/08/20 at 2,929.80
05/19/20 at 2,922.35
06/03/20 at 3,130.94
07/24/20 at 3,215.63

S&P has regained everything it lost since 3/11 pandemic announcement, and more, and is approaching the 2/07/20 all-time high.

Nasdaq too gave up its 8/28/18 high of 8,030.04, closing on:

10/5/18 at 7,788.45
12/26/18 at 6,554.36
01/07/19 at 6,823.47
01/16/19 at 7,034.70
02/06/19 at 7,263.87
02/25/19 at 7,561.87
05/16/19 at 7,898.05
06/18/19 at 7,953.68
07/24/19 at 8,321.50
09/10/19 at 8,043.58
10/02/19 at 7,809.22
12/06/19 at 8,656.07
01/17/20 at 9,388.95
02/07/20 at 9,555.96 down 16.19 from new all-time high
03/12/20 at 7,201.80
03/17/20 at 7,334.78
03/23/20 at 6,860.67
03/26/20 at 7,797.54
03/31/20 at 7,700.10
04/09/20 at 8,153.58
04/17/20 at 8,650.14
04/27/20 at 8,730.16
05/08/20 at 9,121.32
05/19/20 at 9,185.10
06/04/20 at 9,615.81 don’t look now, but we have set a new record high, above the previous high of 2/07/20!
07/24/20 at 10,363.18 we continue in uncharted territory

The US Treasury curve is about as flat as it gets and yields are at historic lows.

2 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 2.88%
12/18/18 at 2.65%
01/07/19 at 2.53%
01/16/19 at 2.55%
02/06/19 at 2.52%
02/22/19 at 2.48%
05/16/19 at 2.20%
06/18/19 at 1.86%
07/24/19 at 1.83%
09/09/19 at 1.58%
10/01/19 at 1.56%
12/06/19 at 1.61%
01/17/20 at 1.58%
02/06/20 at 1.44%
03/11/20 at 0.50%
03/17/20 at 0.47%
03/23/20 at 0.28% wow!
03/26/20 at 0.30%
03/31/20 at 0.23%
04/09/20 at 0.23%
04/17/20 at 0.20%
04/27/20 at 0.24%
05/10/20 at 0.16% historic low
05/19/20 at 0.17%
06/03/20 at 0.19%
07/24/20 at 0.14% new historic low

3 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 2.99%
12/18/18 at 2.64%
01/07/19 at 2.47% (inverted to 2years)
01/16/19 at 2.53%
02/06/19 at 2.50%
02/22/19 at 2.46%
05/16/19 at 2.15%
06/18/19 at 1.80%
07/24/19 at 1.79%
09/09/19 at 1.52%
10/01/19 at 1.51%
12/06/19 at 1.64%
01/17/20 at 1.58%
02/06/20 at 1.43%
03/11/20 at 0.58%
03/17/20 at 0.54%
03/23/20 at 0.31% wow!
03/26/20 at 0.36%
03/31/20 at 0.29%
04/09/20 at 0.29%
04/17/20 at 0.26%
04/27/20 at 0.29%
05/10/20 at 0.21%
05/19/20 at 0.22%
06/03/20 at 0.26%
07/24/20 at 0.17% wow!

5 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.07%
12/18/18 at 2.65%
01/07/19 at 2.49%
01/16/19 at 2.54%
02/06/19 at 2.51%
02/22/19 at 2.47%
05/16/19 at 2.18%
06/18/19 at 1.83%
07/24/19 at 1.82%
09/09/19 at 1.49%
10/01/19 at 1.51%
12/06/19 at 1.67%
01/17/20 at 1.63%
02/07/20 at 1.45%
03/11/20 at 0.66%
03/17/20 at 0.56%
03/23/20 at 0.38%
03/26/20 at 0.51%
03/31/20 at 0.37%
04/09/20 at 0.41%
04/17/20 at 0.36%
04/27/20 at 0.41%
05/10/20 at 0.33%
05/19/20 at 0.35%
06/03/20 at 0.38%
07/24/20 at 0.27%

7 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.18%
12/18/18 at 2.74%
01/07/19 at 2.60%
01/16/19 at 2.62%
02/06/19 at 2.59%
02/22/19 at 2.55%
05/16/19 at 2.28%
06/18/19 at 1.93%
07/24/19 at 1.93%
09/09/19 at 1.57%
10/01/19 at 1.59%
12/06/19 at 1.78%
01/17/20 at 1.74%
02/06/20 at 1.56%
03/11/20 at 0.78%
03/17/20 at 0.91%
03/23/20 at 0.63%
03/26/20 at 0.72%
03/31/20 at 0.55%
04/09/20 at 0.60%
04/17/20 at 0.53%
04/27/20 at 0.56%
05/10/20 at 0.53%
05/19/20 at 0.54%
06/03/20 at 0.59%
07/24/20 at 0.44%

10 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.23%
12/18/18 at 2.82%
01/07/19 at 2.70%
01/16/19 at 2.73%
02/06/19 at 2.70%
02/22/19 at 2.65%
05/16/19 at 2.40%
06/18/19 at 2.06%
07/24/19 at 2.05%
09/09/19 at 1.83%
10/01/19 at 1.65% dramatic drop in one month!
12/06/19 at 1.84% dramatic rise in two months!
01/17/20 at 1.84%
02/06/20 at 1.65% and back down again!
03/11/20 at 0.82%
03/17/20 at 1.02% and back up again
03/23/20 at 0.76% and back down again
03/26/20 at 0.83%
03/31/20 at 0.70%
04/09/20 at 0.73%
04/17/20 at 0.65%
04/27/20 at 0.67%
05/10/20 at 0.69%
05/19/20 at 0.70%
06/03/20 at 0.77%
07/24/20 at 0.59%

30 YEAR BONDS closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.40%
12/18/18 at 3.07%
01/07/19 at 2.99%
01/16/19 at 3.07%
02/06/19 at 3.03%
02/22/19 at 3.02%
05/16/19 at 2.84%
06/18/19 at 2.55%
07/24/19 at 2.58%
09/10/19 at 2.11%
10/01/19 at 2.11%
12/06/19 at 2.29%
01/17/20 at 2.29%
02/06/20 at 2.11%
03/11/20 at 1.30%
03/17/20 at 1.63% way up!
03/23/20 at 1.33% back down
03/26/20 at 1.42%
03/31/20 at 1.35%
04/09/20 at 1.35%
04/17/20 at 1.27%
04/27/20 at 1.29%
05/10/20 at 1.39%
05/19/20 at 1.43%
06/03/20 at 1.56%
07/24/20 at 1.23%

Housing News:

A report from the Mortgage Bankers Association reveals that the share of mortgage loans in forbearance has fallen for a fourth consecutive week, to 8.18%. The MBA estimates that 4.2 million homeowners are now in forbearance, with 43% of loans in forbearance in an extension following their initial term. Prior to COVID-19 pandemic impacting the US economy, the MBA reported the overall forbearance rate was 0.25%. HUD is abolishing an Obama-era rule related to Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH). The MBA reports that the Purchase Application of new homes was up 54% year/year, right before this new uptick in COVID-19 cases. Also, recent Pending Home Sales were up 44% month/month. Black Knight is acquiring Optimal Blue in $1.8 billion deal, boosting origination offerings. Realtor.com just launched a new iBuying partnership site to show home sellers all of their options. Low mortgage rates and pent-up demand from buyers pushed Sales of New Homes to a 13-year high in June, according to the Commerce Department. Houses sold at the fastest pac since July 2007. Average US rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell below 3.00% for the first time since collection of the data in 1971. I just saw a 15-year fixed rate mortgage at 2.375%! The months’ supply number, which measures how long it would take to sell off the current inventory, fell to 4.7 months, the lowest in nearly 4 years. The Federal eviction moratorium extension ended this past Saturday.

Repo/Securities Financing News:

For those of you who thought I was semi-retired and those of you that knew I had ghost-written a book, worked on several conferences, and continued consulting in Repo & Securities Lending, I am really not retired. Last week, I agreed to partner with Roy Zimmerhansl and his Pierpoint Financial Consulting, to develop and teach the curriculum for the Securities Finance Academy Repo courses. I will be putting my decades of knowledge to good use and doing something I am passionate about, teaching and speaking about Repo. There was an article about it in yesterday’s ISF/Global Investor online and an article about it in today’s Securities Lending Times.

Securities Lending Times also reports that Broadridge Securities Finance and Collateral Management appointed Pierpoint Financial Consulting as its training provider. Broadridge intends to invest in its associates to enhance their business skills, industry knowledge, and understanding.

I am personally thrilled to see that the 4 huge pension plans (who are all clients of mine—CalPERS, HOOPP, OPERS, and SWIB, alongside sponsorship from eSecLending, Osler,Hoskin&Harcourt LLP, and Credit Benchmark) officially announced their new non-profit trading alliance, Global Peer Financing Association (GPFA), to conduct peer-to-peer trading in securities lending and repo markets. I had been speaking to all of them for years about P2P and had been reporting since the IMN Repo & Beneficial Owners Conference at the beginning of 2020, here in the Repo Commentary, that they were forming this alliance and had held a panel for dozens of other pension funds and some insurance companies at the conference to that end. I am delighted that it is now off the ground and running officially. Obviously, P2P Repo & Lending is a subject near and dear to my heart since 2008, when I created Direct Repo for AVM, LP, and I hope that I will be able to help this organization, in some capacity in the future, gain more acceptance and volume. I believe their first targets for new members are not only other Global Pension Funds, but also Asset Managers, Insurance Companies, Sovereign Wealth Funds, and Central Banks.

I’m sure that you all saw that the RMA has decided to cancel its mid-October 37th annual securities finance and collateral management conference, one of the most attended conferences in our industry, and one that I had attended every single year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The conference will be held virtually in some form. For those who are fellow Repo dinosaurs, you may remember that it was cancelled once before, shortly after the 9-11 tragedy.

SF reports that Sri Lanka’s Central Bank has entered a $1 billion repo with the US. LCH is reportedly ‘all set’ for Monday’s EU 5 trillion switch. Remember, Tesla’s Elon Musk’s rant about the securities lending market helping people unfairly short Tesla’s stock and ‘causing’ (rather than ‘reflecting’) the company’s financial struggle? That stirred old debates and led to new ESG initiatives. Meanwhile, those who were vilified for shorting the stock have gotten crushed in a ‘short squeeze’. The Hong Kong Exchange has added leveraged products to the exchange.

Bank of Canada has announced new securities repo operations (SROs). It will suspend the current securities lending program to primary dealers. The move is intended to support core funding markets. The SROs will supply a temporary source of Government of Canada bonds and treasury bills to primary dealers, which can then be supplied to cash providers in the repo market. Meanwhile, Bank of Canada has begun winding down its enhanced liquidity provisions (term repo operations and purchasing of bankers acceptances), citing that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the financial markets “appears to have peaked.”

BlackRock said that it saw record-breaking securities lending revenue, as earnings hit $210 million in Q2, up $52 million from Q1. Northern Trust also reported another increase in securities lending revenue for Q2. Cowen has partnered with n-Tier to complete a successful go-live of its Consolidated Audit Trail (CAT) reporting using their Compliance Workbench Platform.

GC Repo rates continue to remain low, despite (as Scott Skyrm points out) US Treasury raising national debt outstanding from $23.5 trillion 4 months ago, to $26.485 trillion now. The spread over this period between Fed Funds and US Treasury GC repo actually ‘contracted’ to 3.8bp. One reason that the huge Treasury issuance didn’t make a dent in the GC repo rates, is because the Fed restarted QE purchases last September, increasing the SOMA portfolio from $3.98 trillion to $6.2 trillion. The second reason is that, as the Money Funds found less US Treasury Repo available from broker/dealers (for a number of reasons), they bought US Treasuries, particularly Treasury Bills outright as their Repo alternative.

The current state of Central Clearing Counterparties (CCPs) and Electronic Trading Platforms (ETPs):

CCPs:

Europe
• Eurex/Deutsche Borse/Clearstream (CCP)-has been doing predominantly European governments repo for some time now.
• LCH-Clearnet-London (CCP)-I do not have any info yet.
• LCH-Clearnet-Paris (CCP)-split out years ago, not because of Brexit.

Asia

• Shanghai Clearing House-China (CCP). I do not have any info yet.
North America

• OCC (CCP)-has hit daily volumes of $80 bilion of repo and outright trading, with futures and options as well. It also still owns AQS/Quadriserve (ETP) for US securities lending.
• FICC/DTCC (CCP)-has hit high volume of $552 billion, increases coming from the 3 participant banks in Sponsored Repo, bringing their clients into the CCP, along with their standard dealer vs dealer repo. Has been around a while now.
• CDCC-Canada (CCP)-brand new CCP involving derivatives and repo.
ETPs:

Europe

• WeMatch.com (ETP)-fairly new, trades total return swaps.
• HQLAx (ETP)-securities financing, just started, uses blockchain tokens to represent trades.
• Liquidity Marketplace-LMX (ETP), I do not have any info yet.
• Asterisk (ETP)-brand new, focused first on government securities and equities financing.
• Treasury Spring (ETP)-fairly new, focused on European asset managers.

North America

• GLMX (ETP)-a Silicon Valley solution, primarily dealers and some asset managers.
• TradeWeb (ETP)-longtime system, primarily dealers and some asset managers.
• BNY DBVX (ETP)-fairly new and has changed, for internal BNY Mellon clients now.
• DealerWeb (ETP)-primarily for dealers.
• AFX/CBOE (ETP)-trades collateralized loans and futures.
• State Street Direct Access (ETP)-fairly new, has started securities financing for internal State Street clients.

Securities Finance Industry Conferences: (subject to COVID-19-related postponements or cancellations)

• Deutsche Borse/Clearstream/Securities Lending Times held their annual GFF Summit in Luxembourg, 1/28-1/30/20, which I attended two years ago.
• IMN 26th Beneficial Owners International Securities Finance conference will be held in Fort Lauderdale, FL on 2/12-2/13/20. I was the Chairperson in 2019 and will be a moderator this year. I hope to see many of you there!
• iMoneyNet/Informa has yet to announce its annual MMExpo, after the merger. I have spoken at this one several times.
• PASLA/RMA will hold its 17th annual Conference on Asian Securities Lending in Tokyo, Japan on 3/3-3/5/20.
• GIOA will hold its 16th annual conference in Las Vegas 3/18-3/20/20. I have spoken (and sung) at this one. I may attend.
• Crane Data will hold its annual Bond Fund Symposium in Boston, MA on 3/23-3/24/20.
• IHS Markit will hold its annual Securities Finance Forum in London, England on 3/24/20.
• Finadium will hold its 4th annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference in NYC on 5/13-5/14/20. I’ve spoken and sponsored this one.
• GFOA will hold its gigantic 114th (wow!) annual conference in Los Angeles on 5/17-5/20/20. I have attended this one in the past.
• IMN/AFME will hold its annual Global Bank ABS (West) conference in Barcelona, Spain on 6/16-6/18/20.
• Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income Leaders USA Summit in Nashville, TN on 6/8-6/10/20.
• ISLA will hold its 29th Annual Securities Finance and Collateral Management conference in Vienna, Austria on 6/23-6/25/20. I have spoken (and sung) at this one before.
• ICMA/Securities Lending Times will hold their annual AGM and conference also in Vienna, Austria, on 6/24-6/26/20.
• Crane Data will hold its annual Money Fund Symposium on 6/24-6/26/20 in Minneapolis, MN. I heard there were 580 attendees in Boston last year. I have spoken at this conference before.
• National Association of State Treasurers will hold its annual conference in San Diego, CA on 9/13-9/16/20. I’ve spoken and sung at this one.
• IMN will hold its annual European Securities Finance conference in London, England on 9/15-9/16/20. I’ve attended this before.
• Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income & FX Leader Summit in Singapore on 9/22-9/24/20.
• IMN will hold its annual ABS East conference in Miami Beach, FL on 10/5-10/7/20. I’ve attended this before and might again.
• Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income Leaders 2020 conference in Barcelona, Spain on 10/12-10/14/20.
• RMA will hold its 38th annual Conference on Securities Finance and Collateral Management in Amelia Island, FL on October 12-15. I saw many of you last year in Boca Raton. It was my 37th RMA I’ve attended. JUST CANCELLED
• Crane Data has yet to announce its annual European Money Fund Symposium.
• Finadium has yet to announce its 4th annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference Europe.
• American Financial Professionals (AFP) will hold its large annual conference in Las Vegas, NV on 10/18-10/21/20.
• Finadium has yet to announce its Rates & Repo conference in New York. I’ve spoken and sponsored this one.
• Risk.net has yet to announce its 26th annual Risk USA conference. I’ve chaired this one.
• SIFMA has yet to announce its annual Meeting.

Federal Reserve News:

I was asked by Global Investor Group/ISF Magazine about a month ago to write an article about the Federal Reserve policies and exit strategy for its Americas Securities Finance Guide. That should be coming out soon.

The Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) is supposed to be a broad measure of the cost of borrowing cash overnight collateralized by US Treasury securities. It is also reported by the NY Fed on its website. It has been controversial and has been considered as the likely replacement for LIBOR. SOFR includes trades in the Broad General Collateral Rate of Repo plus bilateral Treasury Repo transactions cleared through the DVP services at CCP FICC, ostensibly filtering out issues trading Special. However, critics (and I am one) say that it only picks up the Offered Side of Repo (not a median), that it only picks up the small amount of DVP transactions cleared at FICC and Triparty Repo done at Bank of NY, ignoring the growing amount of bilateral (non-Triparty) repo being done peer-to-peer, dealer-to-dealer, and client-to-dealer, outside of FICC. It is a good representation of where Money Funds (except for a few savvy ones who trade peer-to-peer) are paid on their cash versus US Treasuries in Repo each day by broker/dealers. It almost completely ignores other sectors, particularly buy-side clients with collateral. My friend Scott Skyrm addressed this recently in his Repo Market Commentary, pointing out that since the beginning of April, GC Repo averaged 4.2bp above SOFR, and that the difference is even greater in the futures contracts (where it increases to 7.2-14.9bp spread, depending on the term.) He agrees with me that SOFR will always be lower than GC Repo, because it is skewed to the offer-side of the market, particularly with the inclusion of the tri-party repo rates. Of course, with Fed Funds, repo rates, and outright US Treasury yields trading near 0%, the actual bp differences have decreased, as there are so few bp to play with. My former colleague/partner/boss, Tom Wipf, pointed out today on LinkedIn that Bloomberg now posts a spread adjustment for every LIBOR that is replaced by SOFR, which would be worthwhile following.

The Fed Funds rate, which is still the target rate of Federal Reserve monetary policy and changes to which are made by and announced by the FOMC at regularly scheduled meetings, is currently set at 0.00-0.25% (remember, the Fed has been using a target ‘range’ for a while). The Federal Reserve posts an Effective Fed Funds Rate (EFFR). The Overnight Bank Funding Rate (OBFR), is also published by the NY Fed to capture the volume-weighted median of overnight federal funds transactions, Eurodollar transactions, and the domestic deposits reported by banks.

The next FOMC meetings (and they are all two-day meetings so these are the second day, when they actually announce) are: 7/29/20, 9/16/20, 11/5/20, and 12/16/20. However, as we saw on 3/3/20, the FOMC can call emergency meetings at any time, even on weekends, especially during the Crisis we are facing now.

The Federal Reserve’s Reverse Repo Facility (RRP), which has over 300 approved participants (mostly banks, GSEs, and MMFs) is used as a tool by the Federal Reserve, along with its Fed Funds target-setting monetary policy, and IOER for depository institutions, to help control short-term interest rates. The Fed is currently only repoing out US Treasuries from its portfolio and typically only Overnight.

The Federal Reserve has begun buying ETFs and Corporate Bonds, as well as Municipal debt. Fed Chairman Powell explained the Fed’s new round of $2.2 trillion in lending programs, which will include Corporate Debt backstops for states, cities, and small businesses. This will include riskier bonds issued by corporations that had recently lost their investment-grade status. This brings me back to my earlier point about CMBS and mortgage loans needing a Fed backup program like TALF. For the Fed’s $500 billion municipal lending facility, the Fed has told US states, cities and counties that they must show written proof that they have applied for a municipal loan from a bank, BEFORE they will be considered for the lending facility. This positions the Fed facility more as a ‘last resort’ for applicants. The Fed has since broadened the eligibility for the MLF, lowering the population requirement to 250,000 from 1 million for cities and to 500,000 from 2 million for counties. Also, the Fed has expanded the duration of the debt it will purchase to 3 years from 2 years. More than 200 municipalities are already eligible to participate.

Earthquakes and Volcanoes:

The Earth remains seismically active, as the atmosphere becomes active for hurricane season.

Earthquakes above 5.0-magnitude, in the last few weeks:

07/26 6.3 South Sandwich Islands
07/22 6.3 Western Xizang
07/22 7.8 Perryville, Alabama
07/17 5.9 iquique, Chile
07/17 7.0 Popondetta, Papua New Guinea
07/06 6.7 Batang, Indonesia
07/03 5.3 la Parguera, Puerto Rico

Weather:

Florida finally broke its pattern of the last 2 weeks of mounting heat and humidity during the day, into the 90s and 80%, leading to massive thunderstorms in the late afternoon. This week, although humidity remains high and heat is still near 90 degrees (so Heat Index is 100 or more), there has been significantly less rain. The rest of the East Coast, even the MidAtlantic to New England, have had hot and very humid conditions. Heat advisories extend from Maine to South Carolina. Critical fire weather conditions exist now in the Interior Northwest and Great Basin.

The Atlantic Hurricane Season began June 1st and ends November 30th. According to Accuweather, the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to have a more-active-than-normal season. They expect about 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 4 of them major hurricanes. The 2019 season had 18 named storms, matching 1969 for the 4th most-lively season in the past 150 years. For the 2019 storm season, CSU, which has historically been the most used, had forecast a near-average season of 13 named storms, 5 hurricanes, and 2 major hurricanes. It turned out to be the 4th year in a row of above-average damaging seasons. We had 18 named storms, 7 hurricanes, of which 3 were major hurricanes. It became the 7th year that there were multiple Category-5 hurricanes in one season. CSU is predicting an above-average hurricane season in the Atlantic for 2020, with the likely absence of El Nino. Tropical and subtropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures are currently higher than normal, which tends to promote active hurricane seasons. Consequently, CSU predicts 16 named storms in the Atlantic, with 8 to become Hurricanes, and 4 to reach Category 3 or above strength. Okay, potential Tropical Cyclone 9 has formed in the Atlantic. Tropical Storm Warnings have been issued for Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Leeward islands. Although it is very early and there are sheering winds to come, Florida is currently in the cone for this one. On Saturday, Hurricane Hanna slammed into South Texas, actually making landfall TWICE as a Category 1 storm. It also brought with it relentless rainfall and tornadoes.

The Pacific Hurricane Season started 5/1/20 and ends 11/1/20. There is yet to be a forecast for this Hurricane Season. CSU says, for the Pacific Hurricane Season, they have warm ENSO conditions, with waters slightly warmer than normal in the eastern and central tropical Pacific, but will likely cool and dissipate El Nino. In the Central North Pacific, Tropical Storm Douglas is weakening. As Hurricane Douglas, the first storm in the Pacific this year to become a full-fledged hurricane, it barely missed Hawaii on Monday. There are no tropical cyclones in the Eastern North Pacific at this time.

Sports News:

MLB:

The 2019 MLB regular season began on 3/28 last year and ended on 9/30 (more than 6 months). The Washington Nationals beat The Houston Astros in 7 games in The World Series. As these 2 teams played each other in March 2020, in the Spring Training facility that they share and that I sing the National Anthem at, the Spring Training season (and eventually MLB season) ended about 3/15, with the pandemic shutdown. MLB shut down both the Cactus League and Grapefruit League Spring Training about halfway through. Then, MLB cancelled the Minor League seasons for all 3 levels of the Minors. Then, MLB cancelled its Baseball Hall of Fame 2020 Induction Ceremony for 7/26. Instead, the plan is to honor the inductees (including Derek Jeter) in July 2021, along with its class of 2021 inductees.

MLB finally came to an agreement with the MLBPA, and has begun a Summer Camp (short Spring Training) leading up to a 60-game, shortened, regular season of the 30 teams still aligned in 6 divisions, and still with AL and NL distinctions. Originally, MLB was going to realign the 30 teams by geographic location and drop the AL and NL distinctions, but settled on just restricting the schedules so that teams only played other teams in their division or geographically close interleague games, dropping games with other divisions in the same league. Each team will play 10 games against each of the other teams in its division, for a total of 40 games. Each team will play 20 Interleague games against the teams in its corresponding geographic division, with 6 of those games against its interleague ‘natural’ rival (typically in same city). I think ‘natural’ rival is a little subjective. All of this will simplify the schedule, reduce the playoff schedule, and drastically reduce the travelling. The games will be played without fans for now, in the teams’ respective home ballparks (rather than in Florida or Arizona). The normal 162-game regular season was scheduled to begin 3/26/20 and last into November. This COVID-19 shortened 60-game season will begin 07/23/20. Ironically, Dr. Fauci will throw out the first pitch at the Opening Day game, as the reigning World Champion Nationals will host the New York Yankees. Only 2 games will be played on 07/23, with the other teams playing on 07/24. Well, it only took 2 days before games had to be cancelled due to the risk of COVID-19 for players. And, this is a sport with little direct contact, unlike football, hockey, and basketball. Apparently, many of the Marlins (14) players tested positive, after playing in Philadelphia, which led to a chain reaction, as the Orioles refused to play the Marlins in Miami and the Yankees refused to play the Phillies in Philadelphia for 2 games so far. So, there are 3 games postponed. This is likely to have a ripple effect on other teams that have to play in both locations or have interactions with the infected team(s). This is only a 60-game season, but it already looks like 60 is an aggressive number. I think the risk is because of the travelling by airplanes and use of hotels. They could have gone the same route as the NBA and limited the number of venues and travel. The regular season will end on 9/27/20. The postseason will follow the usual format, with the two Wild-Card teams in each league meeting for a one-game playoff, and the winners advancing to play the division winners. The new MLB protocols will include no spitting, high-fiving, or team showers. All teams, including the NL teams, will have to use the DH rule. Pitchers will have to face a minimum of 3 batters, and extra innings will start with a runner on second base (kind of like NFL OT starting with teams already on the 25-yard line). Here are the teams in each division:

AL EAST
NY Yankees (rival Mets), Boston Red Sox (rival Phillies), Baltimore Orioles (rival Nationals), Toronto Blue Jays (rival Braves), and Tampa Bay Rays (rival Marlins).

NL EAST
NY Mets (rival Yankees), Washington Nationals (rival Orioles), Philadelphia Phillies (rival Red Sox), Pittsburgh Pirates (rival Tigers), and Miami Marlins (rival Rays).

AL CENTRAL
Chicago White Sox (rival Cubs), Cleveland Indians (rival Reds), Kansas City Royals (rival Cardinals), Minnesota Twins (rival Brewers), and Detroit Tigers (rival Pirates).

NL CENTRAL
Chicago Cubs (rival White Sox), Milwaukee Brewers (rival Twins), St. Louis Cardinals (rival Royals), Cincinnati Reds (rival Indians), and Atlanta Braves (rival Blue Jays).

AL WEST
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (rival Dodgers), Oakland Athletics (rival Giants), Texas Rangers (rival Diamondbacks), Seattle Mariners (rival Padres), and Houston Astros (rival Rockies).

NL WEST
Los Angeles Dodgers (rival Angels), San Francisco Giants (rival A’s), San Diego Padres (rival Mariners), Arizona Diamondbacks (rival Rangers), and Colorado Rockies (rival Astros).

The NCAA College World Series was cancelled. Vanderbilt Commodores were the champs from 2019. The NCAA Women’s College World Series (softball) was also cancelled.

The COVID-19 pandemic also picked off the fan-favorite Little League World Series on 4/29, when it was cancelled for the first time in its history. It is typically held in August in South Williamsport, PA.

Golf:

The PGA Tour 2020 season was in ‘full-swing’ and they had the Players Championship at Ponte Vedra, FL (TPC Sawgrass and the island green). But, then it cancelled the tournament before Friday’s Round 2 and shut down for the pandemic. At that time, in early March, it also announced that it was postponing the Masters in Augusta. Augusta National Golf Club announced that the postponement of the Masters would be to November 9-15. The PGA announced that the Tour would resume its 2020 season with tournaments on 6/11. The USGA announced that the local and sectional qualifying for the US Open have been cancelled. I think that was wise, since there were to be some 120 events around the country and 3 sectionals outside the country to be staged. However, those 36-hole events, with club pros, amateurs, mini-tour players, and nonexempt Tour pros competing were how half of the US Open field made their way into the tournament, and it was the allure of this particular Major and what made it an “Open”. I’m sure many of you remember the movie which portrays an amateur beating the great Ben Hogan in the US Open. Instead, the tournament will be an all-exempt field, whatever that means. The US Open has been postponed until 9/17 Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, NY. The PGA Championship is still scheduled for August. The USGA, at the same time, also announced that 4 of its other championships were being cancelled: the Mid-Amateur, the Women’s Mid-Amateur, the Senior Amateur, and the Senior Women’s Amateur. That will leave the USGA with just (besides the US Open): the US Women’s Open (12/10-12/13) at Champions Golf Club in Houston, US Amateur (8/10-8/16), and the US Women’s Amateur (8/3-8/9). The Ryder Cup is being postponed until the Fall. The British Open (Open Championship) has been cancelled for 2020. The 2021 Open will be played at Royal St. George’s next year.

Muirfield Village hosted back-to-back PGA Tour events, and Jack Nicklaus’ course played like two completely different courses. With a little rain the previous week, it played softly and with low scores. This past weekend, with no rain, it played excruciatingly hard, with near-record 13.5 Stimpmeter greens and rock-hard fairways that flung balls into creeks or 6-inch deep rough. Needless to say, the scores were much higher. It was very entertaining, though, because for the first time in 2020, most of the top golfers, including Tiger Woods, were actually playing. It was a close match, until Jon Rahm opened up an 8-stroke lead going into Sunday. But, then, he made it interesting again by going all TIN CUP in front of us and shooting a 10 on a par-5 on the back 9, at one point narrowing his lead to only 3-strokes. But, he held on for the win and became the No.1 ranked golfer in the FedEx Cup. He made No.1 just like his hero fellow Spaniard before him, Seve Ballesteros. This weekend, the PGA Tour travelled to Blaine, MN, for the 3M Open, at TPC Twin Cities, which started Thursday. It was a pretty boring tournament, because few of the upper echelon players played (other than Finau, Schwarzel, DJ (one day)). Michael Thompson won by 2 strokes.

Much has been made about the 40lbs of muscle that fairly new pro Bryson DeChambeau put on during the COVID-19 quarantine, and his subsequent golf swing change and enormous boost in distance for his driver (on average 21 yards), now leading the Tour with an average of 323.8 yards. In the first round at Muirfield, DeChambreau reached the green on a par-4 with a 423-yard drive, which elicited some remarks from architect Jack Nicklaus. It also opened up the debate that Nicklaus started over 40 years ago about how the USGA needs to step in and do something to restrict professional golfers or their equipment. In the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit, DeChambeau averaged 350.6 yards per drive during the tournament, the longest average measured driving distance for a winning player in PGA Tour history. Now, they can’t stop someone like DeChambreau from working out more and getting more muscular, as other golfers now do too (Tiger, DJ, Rory, Brooks, etc.). But, club technology and golf ball technology have advanced so quickly and so far, that the average 7400-yard golf course is reduced to an easier course because of the golfers’ shot lengths. Nicklaus said, once again, as an architect, he can’t design courses longer than he does now, as he doesn’t have any more land to work with. He said the USGA should be looking into the ball technology and come up with a plan to use a restricted flight golf ball, much like the Top Golf, driving ranges, and Drive Shacks do for amateurs. To put it all in perspective, I know a Professional Long-Drive Champion and I’ve watched several of their tournaments, and he’s shown me his bizarre swing to generate some 400-yard drives to win championships. It’s a swing he can’t win with on any Tour and it is only possible to keep some balls in play, but now Tour players are actually hitting the ball FURTHER and with more consistency than he can.

No doubt, now that golf is back on TV, and has played 5 tournaments, you’ve noticed that there are NO galleries of spectators. The PGA will start allowing some spectators, starting this week at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational tournament in Memphis. A memo obtained by Golf Digest has the Tour allowing tournament and title sponsors to each have up to 50 guests per day during the tournament and that spouses and significant others of the players would also be allowed on-site during competition. These spectators will not be subject to testing for COVID-19, but will be required to undergo a temperature check and fill out a questionnaire each day. The Tour will decide what rules to apply on a tournament-by-tournament basis in accordance with that state’s local guidelines. In addition, the Tour will allow ‘honorary observers’, 16-two-person groups per day, and virtual player engagement, which will replace Wednesday pro-ams that have been cancelled for the remainder of the season. This ‘virtual player engagement’ would require up to 30 players to participate in duties such as 30-45-minute Q&A. All of this will add about 500 more people on site to each tournament, in addition to about 1,100 players, caddies, volunteers, media and officials currently at tournaments. I personally don’t care one way or the other if there are spectators for golf. I don’t think it impacts watching the sport on TV.

On the Korn Ferry Tour (which is still not rolling off of my tongue, like the dot.Com Tour did before), next week’s Pinnacle Bank Championship will have expanded on-site access for select tournament sponsor representatives and other VIPs, as well as a limited number of honorary observers. Camilo Villegas’ 22-month-old daughter has passed away.

The European Tour’s Hero Indian Open, was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns, as have all other scheduled tournaments.

Cheyenne Knight is returning to the site of her first LPGA victory for today’s start of the Texas Women’s Open. She actually had to book a tee time for her practice round on Monday.

NFL:

The 100th NFL season ended last year, in Miami, in an entertaining 31-20 comeback Super Bowl victory for the Kansas City Chiefs over the San Francisco 49ers. The 2020 NFL Draft, which was scheduled for 4/23-4/25 in Las Vegas, was cancelled and held remotely. Training camps are expected to open in late July/early August (but it isn’t a certainty), and teams may play 2-4 or no preseason games (I have always been against preseason games, due to the high incidence of injuries), and the regular season is expected to start on Thursday night, 9/10. QB Cam Newton signed a low-pay one-year contract with the Patriots. Potentially a game-changer, Newton will have to compete with sophomore QB Jarrett Stidham, to replace QB Tom Brady, who has left for Tampa Bay (where he has been joined by TE Rob Gronkowski out of retirement). After years of protests, and in light of the current nationwide focus on racial bias, the Washington Redskins have finally decided to do away with the name “Redskins” and logo on their helmets. For now, they will call themselves the “Washington Football Team”. LeBron James took to Twitter to poke fun at the new creative name. If the NFL does allow fans at games, they will be required to wear face coverings. However, the NFL has decided not to require players to wear face shields in their helmets. Meanwhile, as team virtual work continues, there is still no deal between the NFL and NFLPA. Former Steelers Pro Bowl guard Carlton Haselrig has passed away. Chase Young signed his rookie contract with Washington. Jets’ star safety, Jamal Adams, the 6th overall pick in the 2017 Draft, wants to be traded, and has given the Jets a list of 8 teams to which he would prefer to be traded. But, it has been uglier than that, as initially he told team management that he wanted to stay, and they went around his back and shopped him to other teams, and refused to sit down with him to negotiate a contract extension. Not only will this situation potentially set a precedent, but with Tom Brady out of the AFC East, if the Jets deal Adams, they may be sending the wrong signal to their fans. After what we have seen with this COVID-19 pandemic, nothing should be shocking to us. Yet, I am still surprised by some of the unsigned free agents in the NFL. Granted, the NFL might not even play a football game in 2020, but DE Jadeveon Clowney, DE Clay Matthews, CB Logan Ryan, and S Tony Jefferson are shockingly still available.

The Canadian Football League’s season was postponed from 6/11 to an unspecified date in July. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are the CFL’s defending Grey Cup champions.

The new Vince McMahon-backed XFL, on 3/8, suspended and then cancelled its inaugural season. By mid-April, the league filed for bankruptcy, and currently has no plans to field teams in 2021.

Tennis

The Tennis Tours (ATP, FFT, WTA) are discussing when and how to reopen their seasons. We know that the French Open will has been postponed to 9/24-10/4. We know that the 134th Wimbledon, scheduled for 6/29-7/12 has been cancelled for 2020. The US Open is still expected to be played at its normal time in September. There is still a strong possibility that initially there will NOT be fans in the tennis stadiums. ATP Citi Open in D.C. was cancelled.

Olympics

The Summer Olympics, which were to start in July 2020, will be postponed until July 2021. This is the first time ever that a Summer Olympics was held on an odd year. The start of WWII in 1939, forced the 1940 Summer Olympics to be delayed a few weeks, and then canceled. The 1944 Olympic Games were also not held. The Summer Olympics did not begin again until London in 1948. But, they were never postponed.

The 2020 X-Games, that were to be held in Minneapolis in July, were cancelled on 4/24 due to COVID-19 (although now they could have been cancelled for another reason).

The Scripps National Spelling Bee, which had been scheduled for Memorial Day weekend, was cancelled for the first time since 1945.

Poker

The World Series of Poker didn’t fold, but the 2020 tournament, scheduled to begin 5/26 in Las Vegas, was pushed back to an unspecified date in the Fall. Although the tournament of thousands of players begins rounds typically in May, the final table doesn’t normally play until November. So, the gap between the preliminaries and the finals will be much less time in 2020.

Fighting

MMA and UFC are back on.

Soccer

All leagues have now reopened but do not have fans in the seats. I was just watching the Premiere League yesterday. The MLS season was suspended on 3/12.

NCAA Football:

In the beginning of 2020, LSU played Clemson for the College Football National Championship, and despite being down 17-7 in the 2nd quarter, came roaring back behind Heisman Trophy-winner QB Joe Burrow, and won 42-25. The NCAA announced that all Spring sports were cancelled, including NCAA Spring Football, and that all players in all sports would have another year of eligibility, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day has already been cancelled, the first time that has ever happened. Various college conferences have either said they will only play teams within their conferences in 2020 or have said they won’t play at all. Ohio State announced this morning that home games will only have 20% attendance (of a facility that holds more than 100,000 fans), no tailgating parties, and face coverings required of all fans before, during, and after the game.

Here is the post-bowls, final AP Top 25 Poll for 2019-2020:

1. LSU 13-0
2. Clemson 14-1
3. Ohio State 13-1
4. Georgia 12-2
5. Oregon 12-2
6. Florida 11-2
7. Oklahoma 12-2
8. Alabama 11-2
9. Penn State 11-2
10. Minnesota 11-2
11. Wisconsin 10-4
12. Notre Dame 11-2
13. Baylor 11-3
14. Auburn 9-4
15. Iowa 10-3
16. Utah 11-3
17. Memphis 12-2
18. Michigan 9-4
19. Appalachian State 13-1
20. Navy 11-2
21. Cincinnati 11-3
22. Air Force 11-2
23. Boise State 12-2
24. UCF 10-3
25. Texas 8-5
Here are the very early 2020-2021 Preseason College Football Rankings:

1. Clemson
2. Ohio State
3. Alabama
4. Georgia
5. Penn State
6. Oklahoma
7. LSU
8. Florida
9. Notre Dame
10. Oregon
11. Wisconsin
12. Oklahoma State
13. Texas
14. Texas A&M
15. Auburn
16. UCF
17. USC
18. Iowa State
19. Miami
20. North Carolina
21. Cincinnati
22. Michigan
23. Arizona State
24. Minnesota
25. Tennessee

NCAA Hockey

Near the halfway point of the college hockey season in 2020, analysts were seeing Cornell University (my alma mater) and North Dakota as legitimate national title contenders to be in the Frozen Four. Cornell was ranked No.1 in the nation. That all froze, when the NCAA cancelled the college hockey season due to the COVID-19. The NCAA just approved college hockey’s move to 3-on-3 overtime across all levels.

NCAA Basketball

As teams entered their week of Conference Championship Tournaments, prior to the Committee’s decision on the 68 seeds for the National Championship (also known as March Madness), it all came to a halt due to COVID-19. One after another, conferences cancelled their tournaments and the NCAA cancelled the National Championship, before it ever started, on 3/12. The NCAA did the same with the Women’s Basketball Tournament.

I know this is a little weird, but Gonzaga is No.1 on the early 2020-2021 Coach’s Poll basketball rankings. Baylor is No.2, followed by (in order) Villanova, Virginia, Iowa, Kansas, Duke, Creighton, Wisconsin, and Michigan State. Teams have returned for their first workouts, with masks. Ex-UConn star Robinson, chosen by the Orlando Magic in 2010 Draft, has died at age 32.

Here was the current AP Top 25 for the regular season in 2019-2020:

1. Kansas 28-3
2. Gonzaga 29-2
3. Dayton 29-2
4. FSU 26-5
5. Baylor 26-4
6. San Diego State 30-2
7. Creighton 24-7
8. Kentucky 25-6
9. Michigan State 22-9
10. Duke 25-6
11. Villanova 24-7
12. Maryland 24-7
13. Oregon 24-7
14. Brigham Young 24-7
15. Louisville 24-7
16. Seton Hall 21-9
17. Virginia 23-7
18. Wisconsin 21-10
19. Ohio State 21-10
20. Auburn 25-6
21. Illinois 21-10
22. West Virginia 21-10
23. Houston 23-8
24. Butler 22-9
25. Iowa 20-11

NHL:

Last season ended in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals on 6/12, when the St. Louis Blues beat my Bruins 4-3 in the Finals. The puck dropped on this current season on 10/2/19. Then it all ended about 70 of 82 games into the regular season. On 5/28, in a very unusual move, the NHL concluded the 2019-2020 regular season and awarded my Boston Bruins with the Presidents’ Trophy (for having the best record), which is typically a curse for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for that team. The Bruins also received the William M. Jennings Trophy (both Bruins’ goalies Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak, for best goals-against avg.) and Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy (David Pastrnak for most goals, 48, tied with Alex Ovechkin). Seattle will finally get a new NHL team in 2021-2022 season, the Seattle Kraken. I love the name from the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movie franchise!

The puck drops (again) to conclude this season on 8/1/20. The teams who will play in the modified playoffs are in their 2nd week of training camps. The Stanley Cup Qualifiers will begin on 8/1, with the top 4 teams in each conference, based on points percentage, playing a 3-game round-robin tournament, and the No.5-12 seeds playing eight best-of-5 series. The winners of those series will advance to the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the 4 teams from the round-robin. The losers will have a chance at the No.1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft in the Second Phase Lottery on 8/10.

Like the NBA, the NHL will not be playing its games at teams’ respective home ice arenas. All Eastern Conference games will be played at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. All Western Conference games will be held at Rogers Place in Edmonton.

So, the best-of-5 series will be played between:

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Blue Jackets vs Maple Leafs
Rangers vs Hurricanes
Panthers vs Islanders
Canadiens vs Penguins

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Blackhawks vs Oilers
Jets vs Flames
Coyotes vs Predators
Wild vs Canucks

The round-robin tournaments will be played between:
EASTERN CONFERENCE
Bruins, Lightning, Capitals, and Flyers

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Blues, Stars, Golden Knights, and Avalanche

NBA:

This year, the NBA season did not start until 10/22/19, 18 days later than last year. We were nearing the playoffs, when the pandemic shut the regular season down, with just a little over a month left. Late 6/4, the NBA reportedly approved a 22-team format to restart the season in the Summer. All games will be played at the three venues at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fl. Some coup for ESPN Wide World of Sports/Disney! The top 8 teams in each conference, plus the Blazers, Pelicans, Suns, Kings, Spurs, and Wizards (the bubble teams), will compete, starting 7/30. The training camp started 6/30, and all teams would fly to Orlando on 7/7. The tip-off would be 7/31, and a game 7 of this modified playoff format would be on 10/12. Each team will play 8 games before the playoffs would start. Gone, will be the home court advantage. All teams will play on the courts at ESPN Wild World of Sports/ABC/Disney World in Orlando, FL, affectionately being referred to as the “bubble” or safe haven. I originally thought this was an over-hyped idea. But, just observing the problems with the first week of baseball, the team sport with the LEAST physical contact (except the baseball itself), I see that this “bubble” concept may be the only one that works for team sports.

The WNBA season was postponed from mid-May start, although the 2020 WNBA Draft went on as scheduled 4/17.

The Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) season was suspended on 2/1. The latest word is that the CBA would restart its season in July.

Marathons

On 5/28, the 124th Boston Marathon announced that the 2020 race, postponed from April (Patriot’s Day) to 9/14, has now been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and will be held virtually. The virtual part is to reward people who run the marathon with participant t-shirts and medals like the ones that are normally given out. Runners, at this time, will NOT be automatically entered into 2021’s race, because they don’t yet know what that race will look like. The Boston Marathon typically brings in more than $200 million to Boston’s economy and raises another $36 million for charities, each year. About 30,000 people usually run the Boston Marathon each year and there are about a million spectators along the 26.2-mile route.

Cycling

The Tour de France was scheduled to begin 6/27, but that date was pushed back until 8/29-9/20. Then, the French government said that no sports events may be held until September, so they will likely have to tweak the start date or cancel the race.

Horse Racing:

For the first time since WWII, the Kentucky Derby was postponed. It will be run on 9/5/20, Labor Day weekend. Horse racing is expected to begin soon, but will likely be without in-person fans. Churchill Downs ran a virtual showdown of the 13 Triple Crown winners running the Kentucky Derby. Seattle Slew was leading from the wire, but Secretariat and Citation overtook Seattle Slew, and Secretariat won. It was very cool to watch! The production raised funds for COVID-19 relief charity. Other horseraces have been held in the past month, but without spectators, like the Florida Derby and Arkansas Derby.

Racing:

NASCAR began the 2020 season with 4 races at Daytona, followed by 3 scheduled races, the last on 3/8/20. But, then the pandemic shut everything down, wiping out the next 7 scheduled races. The season finally restarted this past Sunday, at Darlington Raceway on 5/17. The race was run without fans in the stands. NASCAR is making every effort to get as many of the originally schedule races in to the abbreviated season that had been postponed. Some races will be cancelled.

In the NASCAR Cup Series of 2019, Kyle Busch won in the last race at Homestead. In 2018, the winner was Joey Logano, who beat Martin Truex Jr. in the final 15 laps of the final race at Homestead. Truex Jr. won the crown in 2017. The 2020 regular season will begin in February with the Daytona 500. Here is the complete (updated) schedule of races for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup in 2020 and the results. You will notice that, after 3/8/20, some races had to be postponed, some had to be cancelled, and some had to be replaced by other races. Also, NASCAR snuck in a lot more races in-between the typical Sunday races. In addition, NASCAR was the first professional sport to allow spectators back during the COVID-19 epidemic:

2/16 Daytona 500 (postponed by rain to 2/17)-winner Erik Jones
2/23 Las Vegas, Jiffy Lube Pennzoil 400-winner Joey Logano
3/1 Auto Club 400-winner Alex Bowman
3/8 Phoenix, FanShield 500-Joey Logano
3/15 Atlanta, Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500-POSTPONED
3/22 Homestead, Dixie Vodka 400-POSTPONED
3/29 Texas, O’Reilly Auto Parts 500-POSTPONED
4/5 Bristol, Food City 500-CANCELLED
4/19 Richmond, Toyota Owners 400-POSTPONED
4/26 Talladega, GEICO 500-POSTPONED
5/3 Dover, NASCAR Cup Race at Dover-POSTPONED
5/9 Martinsville, NASCAR Cup Race at Martinsville-POSTPONED
5/16 Charlotte, NASCAR All Star Open-CANCELLED
5/17 Darlington, The Real Heroes 400-winner Kevin Harvick
5/20 Darlington, Toyota 500-winner Denny Hamlin
5/24 Charlotte, Coca-Cola 600 as originally scheduled-winner Brad Keselowski
5/28 Charlotte, Alsco Uniforms 500-winner Chase Elliott
5/31 Kansas, Kansas 400-replaced by NASCAR CUP SERIES Food City Supermarket Heroes 500 at Bristol, which was scheduled for 4/5-winner Brad Keselowski
6/7 Michigan, FireKeepers Casino 400-replaced by Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 in Atlanta, which was scheduled for 3/15, winner Kevin Harvick
6/10 Martinsville, Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville, which was scheduled for 5/9, winner Martin Truex, Jr.
6/14 Sonoma, Toyota/Save Mart 350-replaced by Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead, Miami, which was scheduled for 3/22-winner Denny Hamlin
6/22 Chicagoland, Chicagoland 400-replaced by GEICO 500 at Talladega, which was scheduled for 4/26-winner Ryan Blaney
6/27 Pocono, inserted race Organics 325 in partnership with Rodale Institute-winner Kevin Harvick
6/27 Pocono, Worry-Free Weather Guarantee 350-as scheduled-winner Denny Hamlin
7/5 Indianapolis, Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400-as scheduled-winner Kevin Harvick
7/12 Kentucky, Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart-as scheduled-winner Cole Custer
7/15 Bristol, NASCAR All-Star Open, inserted race-Matt DiBenedetto
7/15 Bristol, NASCAR All-Star Race, inserted race-Chase Elliott
7/19 New Hampshire, Foxwoods Resort Casino 301, replaced by O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway-winner Austin Dillon
7/23 Super Start Batteries 400, also presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts, inserted race
8/9 Michigan, Consumers Energy 400-as scheduled
8/16 Watkins Glen, Go Bowling at The Glen-as scheduled
8/23 Dover, Drydene 400-as scheduled
8/29 Daytona, Coke Zero Sugar 400-as scheduled
PLAYOFFS:
9/6 Darlington, Southern 500
9/12 Richmond, Federated Auto Parts 400
9/19 Bristol, Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race
9/27 Las Vegas, South Point 400
10/4 Talladega, Alabama 500
10/11 Charlotte, Bank of America ROVAL 400
10/18 Kansas, Hollywood Casino 400
10/25 Texas, Texas 500
11/1 Martinsville, NASCAR Cup Fall Race
11/8 Phoenix, NASCAR Cup Series Championship

Formula One began with F1 Car Launch Dates for the various teams from 2/12 through 2/15 for Renault, Racing Point, McLaren, and Ferrari. That was followed by the Pre-Season Testing schedule. The opening of the season coincided with the COVID-19 lockdown, and the Australia Grand Prix was about to run, and FIA announced that the season would be delayed at least until the 5/3 Dutch Grand Prix. It announced a number of race postponements. F1 will have an abbreviated 19 race season (instead of the record 22-race season planned), when it begins. The reports were that they were thinking about 7/5 as a start date, and that was good intel. There will likely be no summer break and they anticipate that the season end date will extend beyond the original end date of 11/27-29. So, we lost the Australian GP, Bahrain GP, Vietnamese GP, Chinese GP, and Canadian GP. The season began on 7/5/20 with the Austrian GP. Here is the NEW 2020 schedule and results:

7/5/20 Austrian GP-winner V.Bottas
7/12/20 Steiermark GP-winner L.Hamilton
7/19/20 Hungarian GP-winner L.Hamilton
8/2/20 British GP
8/9/20 70th Anniversary GP
8/15/20 Spanish GP
8/30/20 Belgian GP
9/6/20 Italian GP
9/13/20 Tuscan GP
9/27/20 Russian GP
10/25/20 United States GP (Circuit of the Americas)
11/1/20 Mexican GP
11/15/20 Brazilian GP
11/29/20 Abu Dhabi GP

Meanwhile, in F1 news, McLaren had an F1 reunion with Gulf Oil in new sponsorship deal. Additional races will join the 2020 F1 calendar: Imola, Nurburgring, and Portimao.

Here is the IndyCar Racing circuit (Indy cars are generally considered faster than F1 car along straight lines, mostly because their races are on oval tracks, while F1 tracks are more intricate, requiring better brakes and more aerodynamic grip than Indy cars). In 2019, Josef Newgarden came in 8th in the last race, to just edge out Simon Pagenaud for the championship. COVID-19 pandemic was going to allow only one IndyCar race to run so far this season, St. Petersburg, and it would be without spectators. However, just before the race, IndyCar announced that the rest of the season would be postponed at least until June 14, and several races would be cancelled, including this one. It then announced that all races through April would be cancelled. They have announced some postponements of later races, which I will update as I receive them (notice that IndyCar doubled up on some races on back-to-back days):

3/15 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg-POSTPONED to 10/25
3/22 Circuit of the Americas-CANCELLED
4/5 Grand Prix of Alabama-Takuma Sato-CANCELLED
4/19 Grand Prix at Long Beach-CANCELLED
4/26 AutoNation IndyCar Challenge at Austin, TX-CANCELLED
5/9 GMR Grand Prix of Indianapolis-postponed to 7/4
5/24 104th Indianapolis 500-postponed to 8/23
5/30 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 1-CANCELLED
5/31 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 2-CANCELLED
6/6 Genesys 600 at Texas Grand Prix-This race is expected to be run without spectators in a shortened 300 miles-winner Scott Dixon
6/21 Rev Group Grand Prix at Road America-POSTPONED
6/27 Indy Richmond 300-CANCELLED
7/4 GMR Grand Prix, Indianapolis (postponed from 5/9)-winner Scott Dixon
7/11 Rev Group GP at Road America-Race 1-winner Scot Dixon
7/12 Honda Indy Toronto-CANCELLED, replaced by Rev Group GP at Road America-Race 2-winner Felix Rosenqvist
7/17 Iowa 300-rescheduled as Grand Prix of Iowa-Race 1-winner Simon Pagenaud
7/18 Grand Prix of Iowa-Race 2, inserted race-winner Josef Newgarden
8/9 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio-moved up one week
8/23 Bommarito Automotive Group 500-POSTPONED, replaced by Indianapolis 500, previously scheduled for 5/24
8/30 Bommarito Automotive Group 500-originally scheduled for 8/23
9/13 Grand Prix of Portland, POSTPONED one week
9/19 Firestone Grand Prix at Monterey Race 1, inserted race-
9/20 Firestone Grand Prix at Monterey Race 2, as scheduled
10/3 IndyCar Harvest GP at Indianapolis-ADDED
10/25 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg-ADDED as final race

Travel News:

Oddly, the US finds itself quarantined by other countries at the moment, with no travel allowed to Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, or Europe, without a 14-day quarantine of people from the US. As the Northeast former hot-spots for COVID-19 diminish in numbers of new cases, the new hot-spots are Florida, Texas, and California. It’s unclear whether is the first wave or the second wave. But, increases in COVID-19 cases have skyrocketed there and are leading to discussions of re-closing establishments, beaches, etc. For those travelling to Hawaii, now that the hurricane has passed, remember that if you break the 14-day quarantine, you will be arrested. NY Governor Andrew Cuomo has added 3 more states to his travel advisory. There are now a total of 34 states, plus Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. on the travel advisory. Incoming travelers to New York from these states are required to self-quarantine for 14-days upon arrival. Minnesota was one of the 3 states added to the list, which had been removed from the list previously. Dublin Airport Authority said it is losing EU 1 million per day, keeping its airports open, with a 24 million drop in passengers.

Health News:

As of this afternoon (7/28), globally, more than 655,613 people have died from COVID-19. More than 16,553,770 people have been confirmed to have been infected with COVID-19. The US has had the most confirmed cases and most deaths, 4,315,889 confirmed and 148,488 deaths. Last we spoke, Brazil moved into second in terms of COVID-19 deaths, now at 87,618, with the UK third with 45,963, Mexico fourth with 44,022, and Italy fifth with 35,123. The head of Germany’s public health agency says people have been “negligent” as COVID-19 infections increase and German officials said they are “very concerned” by the rising cases.

The CDC says that actual COVID-19 infections are up to 13 times higher than reported cases in some US states. The CDC former chief says that states fail to report this data to show that some states are handling the pandemic better than other states. Bloomberg reports that virus spikes may indicate that certain states may need focused closings or re-closings. Other local studies have shown that the death toll in some states and counties have been exaggerated, as “death by COVID-19” has become a common moniker for deaths by unknown causes. With testing delays and surges in the number of cases, some states have found contact tracing impossible. US News & World Reports reported that common diabetes meds are linked to higher odds for a serious complication from COVID-19. A new WebMD poll shows that most people would wait on a COVID-19 vaccine. It is still believed that survivors’ COVID antibodies may be a powerful weapon against the pandemic. There are now people classified as “super spreaders” who can fill a room with the virus. As part of the anti-mask/glove/social distancing movement, many people (particularly younger people) are having COVID-19 parties. Some of them are having attendees pay up-front fees, so that the person who first is diagnosed with COVID-19 wins the pot. This is deeply disturbing. One man attended such a party, in which 35 attendees (including him) came down with COVID-19. Despite still not being a cure for COVID-19, hydroxychloroquine is trending again.

As many states begin reopening, refuse to reopen, or begin re-closing, I think about the different sectors of our lives that are impacted, such as the hospitality industry (hotels, restaurants, bars, travel), healthcare, education, retail, etc. and wonder how they will have to adapt and how different things will look next year. Some things will change until there is a vaccine for COVID-19, assuming that the vaccine can last a long time and that there isn’t a new variety of COVID-19 next year. Some things have changed permanently.

Just thinking today about education, as parents struggle through home-schooling their children, finally hoping that the children will return to official schools to obtain quality and appropriate education from amply qualified, underpaid and under-appreciated teachers. There is no doubt going to be a collective sigh of relief, as schools reopen. But, that issue has yet to be resolved. Some schools will reopen, but some are deciding not to reopen. Some schools will still offer their fine education from those very qualified teachers, while others haven’t decided if they will rely on the parents, who are unqualified to teach, to educate the students. At the heart of the matter is that studies are showing that a large chunk of students are testing positive for COVID-19 and authorities aren’t sure how they are going to ensure that teachers don’t become infected or other students, who didn’t test positive, don’t suddenly get infected. Then there’s the moral issue of ‘forcing’ teachers to return to classrooms and put their lives in jeopardy, which must bring in the longtime discussion of their being underpaid. Surely, now after months of having to figure out curriculums and home-teach their children, parents recognize the incredible value of these teachers. But, what is the right answer? Should these teachers continue to teach, but online only, to keep them away from risk, and how does that impact the education/childhood of the students? Further, if you have the parents continue to educate their children, how do you consistently evaluate the students versus certain goals and requirements for advancement to the next grade or for a diploma? It gets way more complicated for colleges and universities, who are charging enormous tuitions and board for students to not only learn from learned professors and experts in their fields, but also for those students to go through the ‘entire college experience’ (living on their own, developing friendships, developing social skills, learning responsibility, etc.). How are the students going to get that from living alone and taking online classes? Once again, how will you evaluate each student versus some standard for receiving a particular degree? Also, from the institution’s perspective, how will they be able to afford to keep up these sprawling campuses and gorgeous buildings, if they have to charge a discounted price for online learning? There is not a lot of time left, as the back-to-school sales have already begun down here in Florida and colleges will be reporting shortly. Some authorities, unions, institutions, and parents are going to have to look hard at the pros and cons or how to adapt the current educational system. There is also a growing group of parents who are considering continuing home-schooling, even if the public schools in their area open, to reduce their children’s and their potential exposure to COVID-19.

In other health news, many people have been sickened by a parasite found in a bagged/pre-packaged salad. Pilgrim’s Pride Chicken Nuggets have been recalled. Cyclospora outbreak has been linked to bagged salad mixes. Ground beef from one distributor has been recalled over E.coli fear. Diabetes drug Metformin extended-release has been recalled by Apotex, for a possible cancerous chemical. One lot tested by the FDA showed higher NDMA levels than allowed. NDMA was the culprit environmental contaminant that triggered numerous recalls of widely-used heart medicines last year. In water utilities around Georgia, the system for testing lead in water is not working properly, leaving people uninformed and unprotected about this potential threat.

Animal News:

The COVID-19 pandemic helped reset the planet, giving it a break environmentally. Tahlequah, a famous killer whale who carried her dead calf for 17 days while she swam 1,000 miles, is pregnant again. She is part of a community of three pods, made up of some 72 whales. They are frequently encountered off the southern end of Vancouver Island in Canada and in inland waters of Washington State in the US. Authorities now estimate that nearly 3 billion animals were killed or displaced by last year’s Australian wildfires. A new study suggests that the Arctic species of polar bears could disappear by the end of this century, due to melting ice, climate change, and starvation. A 9-year-old Arkansas boy was killed in a dog attack while checking the mail. The Siberian Zoo has seen an animal baby boom during lockdown. Another woman was attacked by a bison at Yellowstone. A rare incident, human death by shark attack, and actually there are 3 to report. A teenage surfer was mauled to death by a shark of the south east coast of Australia on Saturday. The prior Saturday, a 20-year-old scuba diver who was spear-fishing died after he was attacked by a shark off the coast of Australia’s Queensland state. On Monday, this week, authorities in Maine said that a 63-year-old woman from NYC was killed by a great white shark bite off Bailey Island, while she was swimming. It is the first fatal shark attack in Maine’s history. Although she was swimming with her daughter 30-40 feet offshore, her daughter was not hurt. There had previously only been one recorded unprovoked shark attack in Maine, 10 years ago off Eastport, also by a great white shark. Large sharks do prey on seals, which are common off Maine.

Entertainment News:

One of the last major surviving icons of the Golden Age of Hollywood, Dame Olivia de Havilland, leading actress of her day in 49 feature films from 1935 to 1988, passed away on Monday, at age 104. She was the oldest living Academy Award winner. She also was successful in work on stage and television. De Havilland is best known for her role in GONE WITH THE WIND, a long, successful legal battle with Jack Warner of Warner Brothers, a long loving friendship with actor Errol Flynn, romantic relationships with Howard Hughes and Jimmy Stewart, and a lifelong feud with her sister Joan Fontaine. She and her sister are the only siblings to have won any Academy Awards. On Friday, iconic television personality, Regis Philbin, died of natural causes at age 88. Philbin became famous and endearing to television audiences in 1985, with his The Morning Show on WABC-TV, with co-host Kathie Lee Gifford, which in 1988 became the nationally broadcast Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee. The show was a massive hit and set the bar for all morning shows to come. Gifford eventually left Live! In July 2000 to join Today Show’s 4th hour with Hoda Kotb, replaced by Kelly Ripa. Eventually, Philbin left Live! in November 2011, after having won a Daytime Emmy Award and setting a Guinness World Record for “Most Hours on Camera”, replaced by Ryan Seacrest. During is also well-known for his hosting the popular game show, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, which won him a Daytime Emmy Award. Philbin and his wife, Joy, lived in my building in Manhattan (or I lived in their building), so I would run into them in the lobby many times. Royana Black, Broadway and RAISING MIRANDA star, has died of leukemia at age 47.

38-year-old singer, Britney Spears, says she’s “demanding attention” with full-body henna bikini picture. Chris Hemsworth’s wife, Elsa Pataky, had to climb out of her car window, after being stuck in a flood. The 72nd Emmy Awards nominations ceremony begins today, 7/28. Mick Jagger, Lorde, Lionel Richie, Sia, Sheryl Crow, and others are urging politicians not to use their music without permission for political rallies, in an open letter. A new biography has come out, detailing the dwindling relationship between Prince Andrew & Kate Middleton with Prince Harry & Meghan Markle. I thought one line was particularly strange, attributed to Markle that she gave up everything to be a part of the royal family and was shunned, but her public actions (to me) showed her actually tearing Prince Harry away from the royal family and having him give up everything for her Hollywood dreams and life. NY Governor Cuomo announced an investigation following the “illegal and reckless” Chainsmokers’ ‘Drive-In’ concert, that he claims had “egregious social distancing violations.” Presidential candidate, Kanye West, known to be on medication for bi-polarism, has been unraveling publicly on the campaign trail, and has several friends and family rushing to his aid. After saying some hurtful things about his wife, Kim Kardashian, and their daughter West, and then breaking down on stage, people have been visiting him at their Wyoming Ranch to console him. Kim just flew out there to have an “extremely emotional” visit with him. The reality TV star, Charlie Balducci, from MTV’s True Life, was found dead in his home in New York, Saturday, at age 44. Music mogul Dr. Dre has taken a knee with Colin Kaepernick. Ellen DeGeneres Show workplace is now under investigation by WarnerMedia, with a third-party firm reportedly asking current and former employees about their experiences working on the show, amidst workplace misconduct allegations that appeared on BuzzFeed news. Katy Perry pushed back “Smile” album release dur to ‘unavoidable production delays’. One of the least-kept secrets has finally broken, that Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith have been having marital trouble for some time. However, the smoke from this distant fire turned out not to be because of Will Smith, as assumed, but actually because of an agreed upon ‘open marriage’, which wound up with a serious relationship for Jada and another man. I still don’t understand the TV show of secrets around the red table, but this has got to be a difficult topic to discuss nationwide. Michael Kopech filed for divorce from Vanessa Morgan weeks before pregnancy announcement. Lori Loughlin turns 56 on Tuesday, less than a month before sentencing. Dancing With the Stars plans to begin production for Season 29 in September. The first confirmed contestant is Bachelorette alum Kaitlyn Bristowe.

Here, so far, are the top 2020 movies by Global box-office, which ended its tallies abruptly in March with COVID-19 (and no, I still haven’t seen any of them):

1. BAD BOYS FOR LIFE $419.1 million
2. SONIC THE HEDGHOG $306.8 million
3. DOLITTLE $224.8 million
4. BIRDS OF PREY $201.9 million
5. THE INVISIBLE MAN $128.3 million
6. ONWARD $108.5 million
7. THE CALL OF THE WILD $107.6 million
8. FANTASY ISLAND $47.3 million
9. UNDERWATER $40.9 million
10. THE MAN STANDING NEXT $34.7 million

Technology & Space News:

A security breach in the administration system of Twitter resulted in many prominent accounts promoting a Bitcoin scam. Comet NEOWISE is visible to the naked eye in the Northern Hemisphere. Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, is the only tech CEO appearing tomorrow in front of Congress, and is the only tech CEO who hasn’t yet sat before a public hearing in Congress. Twitter temporarily has limited Donald Trump Jr.’s account over COVID-19 video. Amazon is now selling to the public its in-house-designed face shield. If you are wondering why, early on, banks began requiring people to make appointments to meet inside, or otherwise conduct all their banking at the drive-in windows, a new study shows that face masks are thwarting even the best facial recognition algorithms. Scientists are looking at a self-replicating Chernobyl mold to potentially protect the International Space Station from space radiation. Science has finally identified an ancient enzyme that makes body odor so pungent. Scientists think a binary star system may have had a dramatic split or supernova, sending an exploding star speeding across the Milky Way. Facebook and Instagram said it will look more closely at potential racial bias on its platforms and are creating new teams to tackle this issue.

US News:

The US election is now within 100 days. Extended unemployment benefits of $600 billion will end at the end of the week. The Federal eviction moratorium extension also ended on Saturday (in all but New York). There may be waves of evictions coming. The government is finalizing the HEROES Act for an addition check to taxpayers. It has surprised me at how difficult it has been for legislators to agree on the details of this second stimulus for Americans. According to Reuters, on Monday, Republicans unveiled a $1 trillion Coronavirus aid package that they hammered out with the White House, to now be discussed with Democrats, which would slash the emergency unemployment benefit (which expires this week) of $600/week to $200/week, focus on getting children back to school (which I think is nuts, since in a recent survey, 1/3 of children tested were found to HAVE COVID-19), getting employees back to work and protecting corporations from lawsuits. The Republican plan sparked immediate opposition from Democrats, who had proposed a $3 trillion plan that passed the House of Representatives in May.

A Federal Appeals court ruled on Tuesday that the US Constitution’s Second Amendment guarantees a right to openly carry a gun in public for self-defense, finding that Hawaii overstepped its authority to regulate firearms possession outside the home. This San Francisco-based court became the sixth US Circuit court to interpret the Second Amendment that way and could set the issue on a path to the US Supreme Court, which has not looked at a major gun rights case since 2010. The same Circuit Court ruled in 2016 that the Second Amendment did not guarantee a right to carry concealed firearms in public in a case originating in Southern California. The states with the most restrictive laws on openly carrying firearms are California, Florida, Illinois, and the District of Columbia.

On the Unemployment front, the weekly US Initial Jobless Claims data skyrocketed from 282,000 on 3/14, to up (including later adjustments):

• 3/21 3,307,000
• 3/28 6,867,000 highest reading in history
• 4/04 6,615,000
• 4/11 5,237,000
• 4/18 4,442,000
• 4/25 3,867,000
• 5/02 3,176,000
• 5/09 2,687,000
• Unemployment Rate was 15.7% for the week ending 5/02, the highest rate since the Great Depression
• 5/16 2,446,000
• 5/23 2,123,000
• 5/30 1,897,000
• 6/06 1,566,000 12-week total increase of 44,230,000
• 6/13 1,540,000
• 6/20 1,482,000
• 6/27 1,408,000
• 7/04 1,310,000
• 7/11 1,300,000
• 7/18 1,416,000 first uptick since 3/28/20

Maybe, a more important figure is in a survey by the Census Bureau, which shows that 47.5% of adults are from households that have lost income because of the COVID-19 lockdown.

As you can see, in this Repo Commentary, and typical of my writing, I’m not going to go too far into reporting on all the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown protests, COVID-19 parties, Black Lives Matter protests, police defunding, statue teardowns and defacements, the political battle for President, and dramatically increased urban violence and overall lawlessness. All of these issues have become increasingly polarizing, some of them just coincidentally at the same time. Some issues politicians and community leaders thought they had dealt with before, but clearly were not resolved. Some have come to a head because of other issues, like police brutality highlighted due to racial tension AND due to the government’s reaction to the pandemic with some strict ordinances, curfews, and suspension of citizens’ rights. Of course, it all gets confusing with some factions going to far, or some factions over-reacting too far, or some factions sitting in wait to cause trouble, anarchy, and crime under the cover of real issues. In its totality, across many related and unrelated issues, justified and unjustified, the citizen unrest is worse than ever before in this country. It is now a ‘perfect storm’. Sadly, that means that some issues, which are really important and should be dealt with, will probably get swept up in the overall chaos and not given their fair light, discussion, and solutions.

A 3D hologram image of George Floyd, who died in May after a white police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes as Floyd pleaded that he couldn’t breathe, will work its way through the US South this week, temporarily replacing former Confederate statues as a symbolic call for racial justice and solidarity. The officer was fired and has been charged with murder.

The body of the late US civil rights icon, John Lewis, was carried over Selma’s historic Edmund Pettus Bridge for the final time, symbolizing the 1965 “Bloody Sunday” march that Lewis and other civil rights leaders made peacefully across the bridge before being attacked by Alabama police officers.

Attorney General Barr is defending deploying Federal agents to Portland, accusing “rioters” of committing “an assault on the government of the United States.”

Bankruptcy News:

Chapter 11 bankruptcy filings continue to surge. Now, 30 companies, each with over $1 billion in assets, have filed for bankruptcy protection.

International News:

A series of attacks over disputed farmland in Darfur, Sudan, left more than 80 people dead and several villages destroyed. At least 16 people have been killed in border clashes between Armenian and Azerbaijani armed forces. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that Huawei employees will be hit with US visa restrictions, due to human rights abuses. Akinwumi Adesina, president of African Development Bank, has been cleared after corruption probe. A postcard helped researchers locate the probably spot near the French village of Auvers-sur-Oise, believed to be the location of Van Gogh’s last painting. A female lecturer jailed in Iran has been moved to a remote prison. Malaysia’s ex-PM has been given a 12-year sentence for corruption. Delhi, India’s mask-averse shoppers are worrying officials.

Florida:

Gov. DeSantis announced that Florida would enter full Phase 1 on Monday, 5/18. He allowed for gyms and fitness centers to be open, beaches to be open, and retail stores and restaurants up to 50% capacity. On 6/3, Gov. DeSantis said that all counties, except Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach, could move to Phase 2, which will include opening Bars and Nightclubs to 50% capacity (and 100% capacity outdoors), movie theaters (to 50% capacity), bowling alleys, and theaters (to 50% capacity). When I wrote that in the 6/4 Repo Commentary, Gov. DeSantis was being praised for his COVID-19 handling of Florida, including the 14-day quarantine he imposed on visitors from Louisiana, Georgia, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Boy, has that changed since then!

Record-numbers of increases in daily cases of COVID-19 over 10,000/day in Florida, the over-crowding of beaches, the flaunting of rules regarding bars & restaurants, and the absurd practice of COVID-19 parties (in which everyone puts money in a pot and congregate outdoors in a large group and the first to contract COVID-19 wins the pot), has caused a major reversal in Florida and the nation’s sentiment towards the State. Now, New York is requiring visiting Floridians to be quarantined for 14 days, and Gov. DeSantis has had to scale back Phases in many counties and curfews have been imposed in hot-spot cities. As the Governor contemplated reopening schools, it was determined that more than 1/3 of school children tested for COVID-19 tested positive.

I am usually singing in Palm Beach County, FL, at least somewhere. My National Anthems for MLB came to an abrupt halt in mid-Spring Training, due to the pandemic lockdown. I still did some charity singing in my 6-part harmony group Generation Gap, but mostly just drive-ups in parking lots at restaurants. I will be doing more solo gigs as Elvis Presley ETA, and had already begun singing on friends’ gigs. I decided to take an indefinite leave of absence from my harmony group (after 12 years). I will be expanding my songs to other artists, besides Elvis (Michael Buble, Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond, Tom Jones, Josh Turner, Sinatra, Jason Mraz, Roy Orbison, etc.). However, given my knee surgery and asthma that now put me in a high-risk category for COVID-19, I am happy that I have not yet been doing any gigs. Frankly, the restaurants are hurting so much that few can afford to hire entertainers.

Here are the upcoming scheduled concerts, still subject to change due to COVID-19, in South Florida:

07/07 Motley Crue/Def Leppard/Poison/Joan Jett-Miami
07/09 Chris Botti-Fort Lauderdale
07/18 The Weeknd-Miami
07/29 Boz Scaggs-Fort Lauderdale
08/01 Dave Matthews Band-West Palm Beach
08/18 John Legend-Sunrise
09/03 Brad Paisley-West Palm Beach
09/26 Backstreet Boys-West Palm Beach
12/05 Cher-Miami
12/20 Andrea Bocelli-Miami

Jokes and Such:

I’m so old that I remember when this ‘#’ was a “tic tac toe” sign, before it was a “number” sign, before it was a “pound” sign, and before it became a “hashtag”. I remember searching for the dot “.” On my computer to type “.com”.

My uncle was in the furniture-making business, he died after accidentally drinking furniture varnish. It was a slow death, but a great finish.

Repo Commentary-06/04/20

IMG_6932IMG_6937IMG_6957IMG_6947IMG_6948IMG_6949IMG_6951IMG_6954IMG_6955IMG_6959IMG_6962IMG_6968IMG_6969IMG_6970IMG_6971IMG_6972IMG_6973IMG_6974IMG_6975IMG_6976IMG_6977IMG_6978IMG_6979IMG_6988IMG_6989IMG_6993IMG_6994IMG_6999IMG_6997IMG_7001IMG_7007IMG_7008IMG_7013

It is Day 86 (on 6/4) since the start of the COVID-19 American shelter-in-place/quarantine response (7 states did not issue a shelter-in-place order), and the day that the WHO declared it a ‘pandemic’ (3/11/20). I may have to stop this count soon, though, as all states have reopened, at least in differing degrees.

 

 

I hope that you and your families are staying healthy and safe. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its literal mortal, economic, and mental toll on millions of people around the world.

 

 

I am still NOT retired from the Securities Finance industry.  I am working with an electronic trading platform, and making great headway on providing a large electronic solution for several markets.  I am also available FOR HIRE as a consultant, with almost 38 years of experience in the Repo & Securities Lending industry. So, if you need my Securities Financing expertise or access to my vast network of about 9000 clients, call my mobile (646-753-1300), email (jeffkidwell82@gmail.com), or hit me up on LinkedIn. Many of you know about my baseball and hockey exploits, particularly all the injuries. I will finally be addressing one that has hampered me since 2009, my left knee, which will be replaced on 6/30/20. So, I may be a little incapacitated for a couple of weeks after that, unfortunately during my birthday.  

 

 

My Repo Commentary is posted FREE (it’s actually always been free) on my website:  www.repocommentary.com. It also pops up on LinkedIn, the Global Investors Group (ISF Magazine) website, and on CentralBanks.com as an op-ed. I am interested in entertaining you and taking your mind off the pressures you are under. I intend to publish a Repo Commentary every week. I may get a little squirrelly on that front relatively soon, as I finally, after 11 years, have been told that I require full knee replacement in the left knee on 6/30. Just when I thought it was safe to go back in the water…

 

 

Since its inception in 1982, the Repo Commentary does not represent the views of any of my former firms and reflects only my opinion and includes only publicly available information.  I make a strong effort to attribute any quotes or thoughts that are not my own, I do not make any marketing spiels, and I really am more interested (70-80%) in entertaining you than boring (20-30%) you with too much market info. Feel free, as always, to send me information or pictures, to make it better!

 

 

 

 

Holidays or Events (06/04):

 

 

  • Audacity To Hope Day
  • Hug Your Cat Day
  • International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression
  • International (World) Hug Your Cat Day
  • National SAFE Day
  • Old Maid’s Day
  • National Moonshine Day
  • National Cognac Day
  • Shopping Cart Day
  • National Cheese Day
  • Mom’s Equal Pay Day
  • Emancipation Day in Tonga
  • Flag Day in Estonia
  • National Unity Day in Hungary
  • Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989 Memorial Day

06/05 is National Donut Day!

 

 

Some Famous People Born on 06/04 in History:

 

 

  • 1394-Philippa of England, Queen of Denmark, Norway and Sweden
  • 1738-George III of the United Kingdom
  • 1744-Patrick Ferguson, Scottish soldier, designed the Ferguson rifle
  • 1917-Robert Merrill-American actor and singer
  • 1924-Dennis Weaver-American actor and director
  • 1936-Vince Camuto-American fashion designer and businessman, co-founded Nine West
  • 1936-Bruce Dern, American actor
  • 1937-Freddy Fender, American singer and guitarist
  • 1937-Mortimer Zuckerman, Canadian-American businessman and publisher, founded Boston Properties
  • 1944-Michelle Phillips, American singer-songwriter and actress
  • 1953-Jimmy McCulloch, Scottish musician and songwriter (Wings)
  • 1961-El DeBarge, American singer-songwriter and producer
  • 1963-Jim Lachey, American football player and sportscaster
  • 1975-Russell Brand, English comedian and actor
  • 1975-Angelina Jolie, American actress, filmmaker, humanitarian, and activist

 

Daily Weird Facts:

 

 

I don’t think anyone expected that when we changed the clocks we’d go from Standard Time to the Twilight Zone.

 

 

 

Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:

 

 

 

“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”—Benjamin Franklin

 

 

 

 

Currency and Commodity Markets:

 

Oil prices closed at:

 

$74.34/barrel on 10/5

$47.66/barrel on 12/23

$48.63 on 01/07

$52.31/barrel on 01/16

$55.26/barrel on 2/3

$55.41/barrel on 2/26

$73.77/barrel on 4/29

$63.28/barrel on 5/17

$54.07/barrel on 6/18

$55.96/barrel on 7/24

$58.31/barrel on 9/10

$53.50/barrel on 10/2

$59.10/barrel on 12/8

$58.81/barrel on 1/17

$54.39/barrel on 2/7

$35.92/barrel on 3/11

$27.15/barrel on 3/18

$29.90/barrel on 3/23

$27.43/barrel on 3/27

$24.90/barrel on 4/01

$31.80/barrel on 4/12

$28.31/barrel on 4/17

$20.03/barrel on 4/27

$26.78/barrel on 5/04

$30.39/barrel on 5/09

$35.69/barrel on 5/20

$39.78/barrel on 6/04

 

 

 

 

Oil prices have rallied back to pre-COVID-19 prices. The Russian-OPEC agreement and US support of oil prices have finally had their impact. The price of gasoline at my West Palm Beach station has been unchanged in the last week, at $1.86/gallon. Most of the other stations in the area are 20-60 cents more per gallon.

 

 

 

One USD versus the Yen was trading at (these are all around Repo Commentary dates):

 

112.20 on 12/24

108.60 on 01/07

109.07 on 01/16

103.18 on 02/03

104.86 on 2/25

103.86 on 5/17

102.59 on 6/18

102.43 on 7/24

101.72 on 9/10

102.16 on 10/02

102.96 on 12/06

104.30 on 01/17/20

104.80 on 02/07/20

99.23 on 03/11/20

101.67 on 03/18/20

104.77 on 03/24/20

102.22 on 04/13/20

102.14 on 04/19/20

101.57 on 04/27/20

106.82 on 05/04/20

100.80 on 05/10/20

102.04 on 05/20/20

103.32 on 06/04/20

 

 

 

One Euro was trading on:

 

12/24 at $1.1426

01/07 at $1.1478

01/16 at $1.1396

02/03 at $1.2047

02/25 at $1.1955

05/17 at $1.1761

06/18 at $1.1825

07/24 at $1.1740

09/10 at $1.1623

10/02 at $1.1504

12/06 at $1.1688

01/17 at $1.1721

02/07 at $1.1543

03/11 at $1.1937

03/18 at $1.1575

03/24 at $1.1400

04/13 at $1.1523

04/19 at $1.1394

04/27 at $1.1407

05/04 at $1.0903

05/10 at $1.1402

05/20 at $1.1522

06/04 at $1.1795

 

 

 

One British Pound was trading on:

 

12/24 at $1.2655

01/07 at $1.2770

01/16 at $1.2880

02/03 at $1.3758

02/25 at $1.3728

05/17 at $1.3427

06/18 at $1.3157

07/24 at $1.3070

09/10 at $1.2959

10/02 at $1.2882

12/06 at $1.3819

01/17 at $1.3753

02/07 at $1.3574

03/11 at $1.354

03/18 at $1.2665

03/24 at $1.2231

04/13 at $1.3143

04/19 at $1.3058

04/27 at $1.3052

05/04 at $1.2435

05/10 at $1.3005

05/20 at $1.2844

06/04 at $1.3136

 

 

 

 

One USD versus the CAD at:

 

1.3442 on 12/24

1.3297 on 01/07

1.3255 on 01/16

1.2492 on 2/03

1.2492 on 2/25

1.2800 on 5/17

1.2740 on 6/18

1.2480 on 7/24

1.2520 on 9/10

1.2560 on 10/02

1.2530 on 12/06

1.2390 on 01/17
1.2640 on 02/07

1.3020 on 03/11

1.3540 on 03/18

1.3690 on 03/24

1.3250 on 04/13

1.3390 on 04/19

1.3350 on 04/27

1.4090 on 05/04

1.3250 on 05/10

1.3250 on 05/20

1.2850 on 06/04

 

 

The USD has weakened against most major currencies over the past week.

 

 

Gold closed on 9/09 at $1504.90/ounce.  On 10/02, it closed at $1498.70/ounce. On 12/6, it closed at $1,464.40/ounce.  On 1/17, it closed at $1557.30/ounce.  On 2/07, it closed at $1,576.20/ounce.  On 3/11, it closed at $1,641/ounce. On 3/18, it is trading at $1,487.60. On 3/24 it was trading at $1,659.80, way up. On 3/27 it is trading at $1,627.00. On 4/01, it is trading at $1,591.60. On 4/12, it skyrocketed to $1,738.00. Yet, on the eve of 4/20, it has backed off a little to $1,694.50. On 4/27, it traded at $1,724.20/ounce. On 5/04, it was trading $1,712.70. On 5/10, it was trading at $,1,708.90/ounce. On 5/20, it was trading at $1,753.80/ounce. On 6/04, it was trading at $1,726.80/ounce.

 

 

 

Bitcoin was trading at (around Repo Commentary Dates):

 

$8,185.21 on 7/25

$6,350 on 10/5

$3,774.97 on 12/24/18

$3,7774.97 on 01/07

$3,598.90 on 01/16

$3,421.10 on 02/06

$3,826.44 on 02/26

$8,100.00 on 05/16

$7,215.79 on 05/17

$9,088.59 on 06/18

$11,919.30 on 06/25

$9,790.37 on 07/24

$10,183.90 on 09/10

$8,235.46 on 10/02

$7,470.41 on 12/06
$8,876.87 on 01/17/20

$9,793.18 on 02/07/20

$7,871.60 on 03/11/20

$5,216.64 on 03/18/20

$6,728.03 on 03/24/20

$6,646.60 on 03/27/20

$6,443.44 on 03/31/20

$6,908.13 on 04/12/20

$7,128.45 on 04/19/20

$7,748.29 on 04/27/20

$8,775.36 on 05/04/20

$8,771.73 on 05/10/20

$9,525.54 on 05/20/20

$9,794.46 on 06/04/20

 

 

After rebounding in 2019 dramatically since the beginning of the year, although certainly not to its $19,000 high, Bitcoin hit a wall at the beginning of the Summer, then rallied during the Summer, and tumbled again in Q4, and had rallied in early in 2020.  It then gave up all of those 2020 gains with the COVID-19 contagion. Now, it has rallied sharply in the last few weeks, leading to its impending ‘halving event’. In fact, this 15% rally in the past week is probably because of the allure of having twice as many bitcoins for owners, similar to a stock-split.  Last week’s gain was part of the first seven-week rally streak in Bitcoin in a year.  In fact, Bitcoin is up over 130% since 3/13/20, when it hit $3,867.  This will be the 3rd‘halving event’ for Bitcoin, since its inception, and will occur on 5/12/20. There were strong rallies prior to the other two ‘halvings’ as well. ‘Halving’ refers to a programmed-in event in Bitcoin’s code, which reduces the reward per block mined by 50% every 4 years to control inflation. Following the halving, rewards issued will drop to 6.25 BTC from the current 12.5 BTC. I’ve heard the promotional material that halving events create lesser supply (half the payment for miners, so less supply of coins) and increase the media attention on Bitcoin and could lead to a rally. But, the charts from the previous halvings have shown more of a sideways move, even a drop in prices for one, and months later, a rally. You know, being a huge stochastics fan my entire career, I have always felt, naively, that any market, at any time, is operating in a pattern either predictable by stochastics or as the result of changing fundamentals. Except Bitcoin. I have not been able to recognize the stochastic patterns easily or correlated the fundamentals with market reaction. So, that’s what I reported in the 5/11 Repo Commentary, but instead, Bitcoin has rocketed higher, after the halving. In fact, it has already tested the $10,000 level three times by 5/20.

 

 

 

 

 

Global Financial News:

 

 

The Financial Times reported (finally, someone reported) that the sudden and sweeping changes brought by the COVID-19 pandemic to how bank traders conduct business has revealed how successfully traders can operate outside traditional, one location/metropolitan trading desks. This is on top of the success many firms are seeing with remote Sales from home, using Zoom or Team conference calls. Yet, major banks have begun planning the safest way to disperse staff in an eventual phased return to the offices. However, part of the plan may include reducing the head count at main offices and redeploying staff to statellite offices. Reuters reports that banks in the US have issued $3.4 billion in leveraged loans this past month for M&A activity (acquisition financing). Talent management company Cornerstone OnDemand is raising roughly $1 billion to support its acquisition of Saba Software. Technology firm Xperi is looking for $1.1 billion to back its merger with peer TiVo Corp. Deutsche Bank’s chairman will step down in 2022. Energy company Apergy is looking for $537 million loans to support its merger with Ecolab’s Nalco Champion. Broadband infrastructure Zipyl Fiber is completing at $791 million loan to back its acquisition by a group of investors led by Searchlight Capital Partners, according to Reuters. The US Senate has passed a bill that would impose requirements on Chinese companies, which could lead to their delisting on US stock exchanges and could prohibit the firms from raising money from US investors. The bill includes requirements that Chinese firms show they are not owned by a foreign government and that they undergo an audit reviewable by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. FINRA said that SEC’s Reg Best Interest largely replaces FINRA’s Suitability Rule, but that there are exceptions. It does not address variable annuities and options, for instance. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has finalized a rule to modernize the Community Reinvestment Act that applies only to national banks, after other regulations had not supported the rule. CFTC is updating its misconduct penalty guidelines for members. A crisis expert has been appointed as World Bank’s Chief Economist. ESMA is asking firms for transparency in their half-year reports.

 

 

US Market News:

 

 

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on global economies and equity markets, particularly the various business shutdowns and furloughs associated with it. Now, we are also contending with a nationwide public outrage over police brutality in Minneapolis, kind of a continuation of human rights being stripped from us all, which is beginning to impact the economy as well.

 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average continues to experience enormous volatility recently, Originally, it was due to the shutdowns of COVID-19, then it was due to central banks’ efforts to calm the markets, and now it may be because of political and racial unrest. However, over the last almost 3 months, the DJIA has recovered everything that it lost. Here are the latest DJIA closes for the past month or so, just to demonstrate the massive volatility (I’m starting to think I missed the bottom to buy in):

 

 

 

6/04/20     26,281.82

6/03/20     26,269.89

6/02/20     25,742.65

6/01/20     25,475.02

5/29/20     25,383.11

5/28/20     25,400.64

5/27/20     25,548.27

5/26/20     24,995.11

5/22/20     24,465.16

5/21/20     24,474.12

5/20/20     24,575.90

5/19/20     24,206.86

5/18/20     24,597.37

5/15/20     23,685.42

5/14/20     23,625.34

5/13/20     23,247.57

5/12/20     23,764.76

5/11/20     24,221.99

5/08/20     24,331.32

5/07/20     23,875.89

5/06/20     23,664.64

5/05/20     23,883.09

5/04/20     23,749.76

5/01/20     23,723.69

4/30/20     24,345.72

4/29/20     24,633.86

4/28/20    24,101.55

4/27/20     24,133.78

4/24/20     23,775.27

4/23/20     23,515.26

4/22/20     23,475.82

4/21/20     23,018.88

4/20/20     23,650.44

4/17/20     24,242.49

4/16/20     23,537.68

4/15/20     23,504.35

4/14/20     23,949.76

4/13/20     23,390.77

4/10/20     market closed

4/09/20    23,719.37

4/08/20     23,433.57

4/07/20     22,653.86

4/06/20     22,679.99

4/03/20     21,052.53

4/02/20     21,413.44

4/01/20     20,943.51

3/31/20     21,917.16

3/30/20     22,327.48

3/27/20     21,636.78

3/26/20     22,552.17

3/25/20     21,200.55
3/24/20     20,704.91

3/23/20    18,591.93

3/20/20    19,173.98

3/19/20    20,087.19

3/18/20     19,898.92

3/17/20     21,237.38

3/16/20     20,188.52

3/13/20     23,185.62

3/12/20     21,200.62

3/11/20     23,553.22

3/10/20     25,018.16

3/09/20     23,851.02

3/06/20     25,864.78

3/05/20     26,121.28

3/04/20     27,090.86

3/03/20     25,917.41

3/02/20     26,703.32

2/28/20     25,409.36

2/27/20     25,766.64

2/26/20     26,957.59

2/25/20     27,081.36

2/24/20     27,960.80

2/21/20     28,992.41

2/20/20     29,219.98

2/19/20     29,348.03

2/12/20     29,551.42 record high

 

 

 

The Dow Jones closed at (Repo Commentary Dates):

 

 

26,656.77 on 9/20/18

26,447.05 on 10/5/18

21,792.20 on 12/23/18

21,712.53 on 12/26/18

24,207.16 on 01/16/19

25,063.89 on 2/06/19

26,106.47 on 2/25/19

25,862.68 on 5/16/19

26,465.54 on 6/18/19

27,269.97 on 7/24/19

26,793.09 on 9/10/19

26,229.31 on 10/02/19

28,015.06 on 12/06/19

29,348.10 on 01/17/20

29,185.07 on 02/07/20

29,551.42on 02/12/20 record high

23,553.22 on 03/11/20

21,237.38 on 03/17/20

18,591.93 on 03/23/20

22,552.17 on 03/26/20

21,917.16 on 03/31/20

23,719.37 on 04/09/20

24,242.49 on 04/17/20

24,133.78 on 04/27/20

24,331.32 on 05/08/20

24,206.86 on 05/19/20

26,281.82 on 06/04/20

 

 

 

S&P 500 has closed on:

 

10/5/18 at 2,885.58

12/26/18 at 2,467.70

01/07/19 at 2,549.69

01/16/19 at 2,616.10

02/06/19 at 2,706.53

02/25/19 at 2,799.34

05/16/19 at 2,876.32

06/18/19 at 2,917.75

07/24/19 at 3,019.56

09/10/19 at 2,969.04

10/02/19 at 2,906.94

12/06/19 at 3,145.91

01/17/20 at 3,329.62

02/07/20 at 3,335.27 down 10.51 from new all-time high

03/12/20 at 2,480.64

03/17/20 at 2,529.19

03/23/20 at 2,237.40

03/26/20 at 2,630.07

03/31/20 at 2,584.59

04/09/20 at 2,789.82

04/17/20 at 2,830.88

04/24/20 at 2,854.65

05/08/20 at 2,929.80

05/19/20 at 2,922.35

06/03/20 at 3,130.94

 

 

S&P has regained everything it lost since 3/11 pandemic announcement, and more, and is approaching the 2/07/20 all-time high.

 

 

Nasdaq too gave up its 8/28/18 high of 8,030.04, closing on:

 

10/5/18 at 7,788.45

12/26/18 at 6,554.36

01/07/19 at 6,823.47

01/16/19 at 7,034.70

02/06/19 at 7,263.87

02/25/19 at 7,561.87

05/16/19 at 7,898.05

06/18/19 at 7,953.68

07/24/19 at 8,321.50

09/10/19 at 8,043.58

10/02/19 at 7,809.22

12/06/19 at 8,656.07

01/17/20 at 9,388.95

02/07/20 at 9,555.96 down 16.19 from new all-time high

03/12/20 at 7,201.80

03/17/20 at 7,334.78

03/23/20 at 6,860.67

03/26/20 at 7,797.54

03/31/20 at 7,700.10

04/09/20 at 8,153.58

04/17/20 at 8,650.14

04/27/20 at 8,730.16

05/08/20 at 9,121.32

05/19/20 at 9,185.10

06/04/20 at 9,615.81 don’t look now, but we have set a new record high, above the previous high of 2/07/20!

 

 

The appetite was strong for the first 20-year US Treasury bond in 3 decades (1986)!  I was four years in the industry when that happened, that’s how long ago it was, lol! The yield was 1.22%, an advantageous interest rate for the US Government. It’s sort of like they took advantage of low interest rates (that ‘they’ created) to ‘refinance’ some of the $22 trillion in debt that ‘they’ have outstanding. That is something that homeowners, investors, and financial institutions have been doing all the time, with their own money. Now, if they could only pay that interest and principal back when USD are less valuable against other currencies, it would be a win-win…wait, the USD is less valuable against other currencies lately. Languishing Treasury yields over the last 8 weeks may have been a signal that there is diminishing economic confidence in the market and an expectation that the Federal Reserve will keep interest rates this low for an extended period of time. I don’t want to plagiarize myself from an upcoming article on the Fed, so I’ll just leave it at that for now. At least, the yields have ticked up slightly this week.

 

 

2 YEAR NOTES closed on:

 

10/5/18 at 2.88%

12/18/18 at 2.65%

01/07/19 at 2.53%

01/16/19 at 2.55%

02/06/19 at 2.52%

02/22/19 at 2.48%

05/16/19 at 2.20%

06/18/19 at 1.86%

07/24/19 at 1.83%

09/09/19 at 1.58%

10/01/19 at 1.56%

12/06/19 at 1.61%

01/17/20 at 1.58%

02/06/20 at 1.44%

03/11/20 at 0.50%

03/17/20 at 0.47%

03/23/20 at 0.28% wow!

03/26/20 at 0.30%

03/31/20 at 0.23%

04/09/20 at 0.23%

04/17/20 at 0.20%

04/27/20 at 0.24%

05/10/20 at 0.16% historic low

05/19/20 at 0.17%

06/03/20 at 0.19%

 

 

3 YEAR NOTES closed on:

 

10/5/18 at 2.99%

12/18/18 at 2.64%

01/07/19 at 2.47% (inverted to 2years)

01/16/19 at 2.53%

02/06/19 at 2.50%

02/22/19 at 2.46%

05/16/19 at 2.15%

06/18/19 at 1.80%

07/24/19 at 1.79%

09/09/19 at 1.52%

10/01/19 at 1.51%

12/06/19 at 1.64%

01/17/20 at 1.58%

02/06/20 at 1.43%

03/11/20 at 0.58%

03/17/20 at 0.54%

03/23/20 at 0.31% wow!

03/26/20 at 0.36%

03/31/20 at 0.29%

04/09/20 at 0.29%

04/17/20 at 0.26%

04/27/20 at 0.29%

05/10/20 at 0.21%

05/19/20 at 0.22%

06/03/20 at 0.26%

 

 

 

5 YEAR NOTES closed on:

 

10/5/18 at 3.07%

12/18/18 at 2.65%

01/07/19 at 2.49%

01/16/19 at 2.54%

02/06/19 at 2.51%

02/22/19 at 2.47%

05/16/19 at 2.18%

06/18/19 at 1.83%

07/24/19 at 1.82%

09/09/19 at 1.49%

10/01/19 at 1.51%

12/06/19 at 1.67%

01/17/20 at 1.63%

02/07/20 at 1.45%

03/11/20 at 0.66%

03/17/20 at 0.56%

03/23/20 at 0.38%

03/26/20 at 0.51%

03/31/20 at 0.37%

04/09/20 at 0.41%

04/17/20 at 0.36%

04/27/20 at 0.41%

05/10/20 at 0.33%

05/19/20 at 0.35%

06/03/20 at 0.38%

 

 

7 YEAR NOTES closed on:

 

10/5/18 at 3.18%

12/18/18 at 2.74%

01/07/19 at 2.60%

01/16/19 at 2.62%

02/06/19 at 2.59%

02/22/19 at 2.55%

05/16/19 at 2.28%

06/18/19 at 1.93%

07/24/19 at 1.93%

09/09/19 at 1.57%

10/01/19 at 1.59%

12/06/19 at 1.78%

01/17/20 at 1.74%

02/06/20 at 1.56%

03/11/20 at 0.78%

03/17/20 at 0.91%

03/23/20 at 0.63%

03/26/20 at 0.72%

03/31/20 at 0.55%

04/09/20 at 0.60%

04/17/20 at 0.53%

04/27/20 at 0.56%

05/10/20 at 0.53%

05/19/20 at 0.54%

06/03/20 at 0.59%

 

 

10 YEAR NOTES closed on:

 

10/5/18 at 3.23%

12/18/18 at 2.82%

01/07/19 at 2.70%

01/16/19 at 2.73%

02/06/19 at 2.70%

02/22/19 at 2.65%

05/16/19 at 2.40%

06/18/19 at 2.06%

07/24/19 at 2.05%

09/09/19 at 1.83%

10/01/19 at 1.65% dramatic drop in one month!

12/06/19 at 1.84% dramatic rise in two months!

01/17/20 at 1.84%

02/06/20 at 1.65% and back down again!

03/11/20 at 0.82%

03/17/20 at 1.02% and back up again

03/23/20 at 0.76% and back down again

03/26/20 at 0.83%

03/31/20 at 0.70%

04/09/20 at 0.73%

04/17/20 at 0.65%

04/27/20 at 0.67%

05/10/20 at 0.69%

05/19/20 at 0.70%

06/03/20 at 0.77%

 

 

30 YEAR BONDS closed on:

 

10/5/18 at 3.40%

12/18/18 at 3.07%

01/07/19 at 2.99%

01/16/19 at 3.07%

02/06/19 at 3.03%
02/22/19 at 3.02%

05/16/19 at 2.84%

06/18/19 at 2.55%

07/24/19 at 2.58%

09/10/19 at 2.11%

10/01/19 at 2.11%

12/06/19 at 2.29%

01/17/20 at 2.29%

02/06/20 at 2.11%

03/11/20 at 1.30%

03/17/20 at 1.63% way up!

03/23/20 at 1.33% back down

03/26/20 at 1.42%

03/31/20 at 1.35%

04/09/20 at 1.35%

04/17/20 at 1.27%

04/27/20 at 1.29%

05/10/20 at 1.39%

05/19/20 at 1.43%

06/03/20 at 1.56%

 

 

                                                                                   

 

Housing News:

 

 

Reuters reported, when I wrote last Repo Commentary, that about 4.1 million US borrowers have had their mortgage payments reduced or put on hold, due to the COVID-19 crisis, but that the pace of requests is marginally slowing, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Mortgages in Forbearance rose to 8.16% (from 7.91%) between 5/4 and 5/10, representing the smallest weekly increase since March. Today, the National Association of Realtors released Existing Home Sales for April, and it wasn’t pretty. The overall figure was down 17.8%! Each of the 4 regions experienced a sharp decline in month/month and year/year sales. The West region was hit the hardest. Yet, home prices remain strong. There is something that reminds me of LIBOR in that release, the price is still strong, even though not much actually traded there.

 

 

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac intend to hire financial advisers to help them emerge from US Government conservatorship. These advisers will be tasked with developing strategies for recapitalization and updating their business plans. The FHFA has issued a proposal that FNMA and FHLMC should hold a combined $240 billion as a buffer against losses. One official snarkily said that if the GSEs had been under a similar obligation before the Financial Crisis, they would not have encountered such difficulties.

 

According to Black Knight, delinquencies on US home loans soared 90% or 1.6 million in April, the largest monthly gain on record. This new high is influenced, however, by the US government’s relief initiatives, which include forbearances for about 4.7 million borrowers on 5/12.

 

 

 

Repo/Securities Financing News:                              

 

 

“Et tu, Repo?” GC repo rates continue to confound and now frustrate the Federal Reserve, after dropping with Fed Funds at the low end of the target range, despite plenty of liquidity around, and now hitting 0.00% again on Wednesday, despite the Fed’s efforts and Chair Powell’s remarks to stop a policy of negative rates. The issue seems to be getting larger for the Fed, as the ECB is showing no signs of abandoning its negative rate monetary policy, and BOE is increasingly split on its course of monetary policy. The UK even sold its first bond ever with a negative yield on Wednesday. Germans have had negative interest rates for a while, and it doesn’t mean that people are paid up front to borrow money. They simply have to pay less back than what they borrowed, in the end.  Even term GC rates continued to drop this week. With QE purchases winding down (now ‘only’ $4.5 billion in MBS outright per day) and issuance increasing, many thought that repo rates would move higher to at least the mid-target area. It looks like the new issuance is being absorbed easily by the market. Maybe there are other factors at play in the Repo market, although we saw the same things happen to the derivatives market last month.

 

 

Finadium just put out a report in Securities Finance Monitor about the Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) issues and the industry’s varied responses. This includes regulatory limiting of short-selling and impact on securities lending participants.

 

 

 

In case you have been in a coma or are new to the Securities Financing market, this is broadly a summary of what has happened since the Financial Crisis.

 

  • Issuance of US Treasuries was about $10 trillion.
  • The regulators, particularly the Federal Reserve, instituted emergency liquidity programs for each of the different sectors of the money market (CP, Corporate Bonds, Broker/Dealers, GSEs, etc.). They eventually unwound those many programs.
  • They opened up for a brief time the Discount Window to more participants and without the previous stigma attached, for collateral providers to access cash.
  • They put FNMA and FHLMC into conservatorship.
  • They began easing Monetary Policy massively for years.
  • They began Quantitative Easing and built up the Fed’s balance sheet to $4.5 trillion. They added to it by buying more securities every month from the paydowns on their MBS portfolio.
  • They propped up some of the 47 primary broker/dealers, allowed some to fail, and helped others to consolidate/merge.
  • The Repo Market shrunk in the US from about $7 trillion to $3 trillion, before recent increase to about $3.6 trillion.
  • Regulators instituted mountains of new reforms, especially the 310 new rules of Dodd-Frank, globally to decrease the likelihood of systemic risk in the financial system and to force, particularly the broker/dealers and GSIB banks to hold more capital/reserves for liquidity.
  • The market began looking for alternatives to financing through the fewer and crimped broker/dealers via CCPs, peer-to-peer financing, Sponsored Repo, and electronic trading platforms (some of which I initiated).
  • The Fed began its much hailed RRP program, kind of like a P2P repo, which added over 300 cash providers from the Repo market to finance the Fed’s balance sheet and provide ‘liquidity’ for those cash providers. Of course, that didn’t help the Primary Dealers, who were using those cash providers to finance their own balance sheets.
  • The Fed stopped QE and began reducing their balance sheet down to $2.5 trillion.
  • The US Treasury began ramping up issuance to the tune of about $1 trillion more, which is funneled through the 24 primary broker/dealers and the central banks.
  • The Fed began tightening monetary policy and tinkering with new measures of repo rates and LIBOR replacement. They also began tinkering with the Interest on Excess Reserves (IOER) from banks and credit unions, to try to create higher reserves.
  • COVID-19 pandemic hit. The Fed did an about-face and began easing monetary policy immediately. They also went back to doing daily System RPs and Term RPs with the primary dealers. They had also lowered IOER.  They now have raised IOER in two of the last three FOMC meetings.
  • The Fed effectively reinstated QE, injected at least $500 billion to buy US Treasuries again, $200 billion to buy Agency MBS again, and injected funds into the Dollar Roll market. They have said their buying power is unlimited. They have purchased about $733 billion in securities so far. They actually started QE BEFORE COVID-19, to raise “bank reserves” in Q4 2019.
  • They then began reinstating specific bailout/backstop programs of 2008, and continue to add to the list.
  • QE purchases are winding down slowly, about $2 billion per day. That would have QE end sometime in June. Of course, they can always restart QE. Open Market Operations (RP Operations) have continued, although at a less hectic pace.
  • Issuance of US Treasuries hits $23.5 trillion, and is expected to go higher.
  • The Fed is getting ready to roll out their Main Street Lending Program to mid-market companies.

 

The current state of Central Clearing Counterparties (CCPs) and Electronic Trading Platforms (ETPs):

 

CCPs:

 

         Europe

  • Eurex/Deutsche Borse/Clearstream (CCP)-has been doing predominantly European governments repo for some time now.
  • LCH-Clearnet-London (CCP)-I do not have any info yet.
  • LCH-Clearnet-Paris (CCP)-split out years ago, not because of Brexit.

 

         Asia

 

  • Shanghai Clearing House-China (CCP). I do not have any info yet.

         North America

 

  • OCC (CCP)-has hit daily volumes of $80 bilion of repo and outright trading, with futures and options as well. It also still owns AQS/Quadriserve (ETP) for US securities lending.
  • FICC/DTCC (CCP)-has hit high volume of $552 billion, increases coming from the 3 participant banks in Sponsored Repo, bringing their clients into the CCP, along with their standard dealer vs dealer repo.Has been around a while now.
  • CDCC-Canada (CCP)-brand new CCP involving derivatives and repo.

ETPs:

 

Europe

 

  • com (ETP)-fairly new, trades total return swaps.
  • HQLAx (ETP)-securities financing, just started, uses blockchain tokens to represent trades.
  • Liquidity Marketplace-LMX (ETP), I do not have any info yet.
  • Asterisk (ETP)-brand new, focused first on government securities and equities financing.
  • Treasury Spring (ETP)-fairly new, focused on European asset managers.

 

North America

 

  • GLMX (ETP)-a Silicon Valley solution, primarily dealers and some asset managers.
  • TradeWeb (ETP)-longtime system, primarily dealers and some asset managers.
  • BNY DBVX (ETP)-fairly new and has changed, for internal BNY Mellon clients now.
  • DealerWeb (ETP)-primarily for dealers.
  • AFX/CBOE (ETP)-trades collateralized loans and futures.
  • State Street Direct Access (ETP)-fairly new, has started securities financing for internal State Street clients.

 

Securities Finance Industry Conferences: (subject to COVID-19-related postponements or cancellations)

 

 

 

  • Deutsche Borse/Clearstream/Securities Lending Times held their annual GFF Summit in Luxembourg, 1/28-1/30/20, which I attended two years ago.
  • IMN 26thBeneficial Owners International Securities Finance conference will be held in Fort Lauderdale, FL on 2/12-2/13/20. I was the Chairperson in 2019 and will be a moderator this year. I hope to see many of you there!
  • iMoneyNet/Informa has yet to announce its annual MMExpo, after the merger. I have spoken at this one several times.
  • PASLA/RMA will hold its 17thannual Conference on Asian Securities Lending in Tokyo, Japan on 3/3-3/5/20.
  • GIOA will hold its 16thannual conference in Las Vegas 3/18-3/20/20. I have spoken (and sung) at this one. I may attend.
  • Crane Data will hold its annual Bond Fund Symposium in Boston, MA on 3/23-3/24/20.
  • IHS Markit will hold its annual Securities Finance Forum in London, England on 3/24/20.
  • Finadium will hold its 4th annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference in NYC on 5/13-5/14/20. I’ve spoken and sponsored this one.
  • GFOA will hold its gigantic 114th(wow!) annual conference in Los Angeles on 5/17-5/20/20. I have attended this one in the past.
  • IMN/AFME will hold its annual Global Bank ABS (West) conference in Barcelona, Spain on 6/16-6/18/20.
  • Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income Leaders USA Summit in Nashville, TN on 6/8-6/10/20.
  • ISLA will hold its 29thAnnual Securities Finance and Collateral Management conference in Vienna, Austria on 6/23-6/25/20. I have spoken (and sung) at this one before.
  • ICMA/Securities Lending Times will hold their annual AGM and conference also in Vienna, Austria, on 6/24-6/26/20.
  • Crane Data will hold its annual Money Fund Symposium on 6/24-6/26/20 in Minneapolis, MN. I heard there were 580 attendees in Boston last year.  I have spoken at this conference before.
  • National Association of State Treasurers will hold its annual conference in San Diego, CA on 9/13-9/16/20. I’ve spoken and sung at this one.
  • IMN will hold its annual European Securities Finance conference in London, England on 9/15-9/16/20. I’ve attended this before.
  • Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income & FX Leader Summit in Singapore on 9/22-9/24/20.
  • IMN will hold its annual ABS East conference in Miami Beach, FL on 10/5-10/7/20. I’ve attended this before and might again.
  • Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income Leaders 2020 conference in Barcelona, Spain on 10/12-10/14/20.
  • RMA will hold its 38thannual Conference on Securities Finance and Collateral Management in Amelia Island, FL on October 12-15. I saw many of you last year in Boca Raton.  It was my 37thRMA I’ve attended.
  • Crane Data has yet to announce its annual European Money Fund Symposium.
  • Finadium has yet to announce its 4th annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference Europe.
  • American Financial Professionals (AFP) will hold its large annual conference in Las Vegas, NV on 10/18-10/21/20.
  • Finadium has yet to announce its Rates & Repo conference in New York. I’ve spoken and sponsored this one.
  • net has yet to announce its 26thannual Risk USA conference. I’ve chaired this one.
  • SIFMA has yet to announce its annual Meeting.

 

 

Federal Reserve News:

 

 

 

The Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) is supposed to be a broad measure of the cost of borrowing cash overnight collateralized by US Treasury securities.  It is also reported by the NY Fed on its website. It has been controversial and has been considered as the likely replacement for LIBOR.  SOFR includes trades in the Broad General Collateral Rate of Repo plus bilateral Treasury Repo transactions cleared through the DVP services at CCP FICC, ostensibly filtering out issues trading Special. However, critics (and I am one) say that it only picks up the Offered Side of Repo (not a median), that it only picks up the small amount of DVP transactions cleared at FICC and Triparty Repo done at Bank of NY, ignoring the growing amount of bilateral (non-Triparty) repo being done peer-to-peer, dealer-to-dealer, and client-to-dealer, outside of FICC.   It is a good representation of where Money Funds (except for a few savvy ones who trade peer-to-peer) are paid on their cash versus US Treasuries in Repo each day by broker/dealers.  It almost completely ignores other sectors, particularly buy-side clients with collateral. My friend Scott Skyrm addressed this recently in his Repo Market Commentary, pointing out that since the beginning of April, GC Repo averaged 4.2bp above SOFR, and that the difference is even greater in the futures contracts (where it increases to 7.2-14.9bp spread, depending on the term.) He agrees with me that SOFR will always be lower than GC Repo, because it is skewed to the offer-side of the market, particularly with the inclusion of the tri-party repo rates.  

 

 

 

The Fed Funds rate, which is still the target rate of Federal Reserve monetary policy and changes to which are made by and announced by the FOMC at regularly scheduled meetings, is currently set at 0.00-0.25% (remember, the Fed has been using a target ‘range’ for a while). The Federal Reserve posts an Effective Fed Funds Rate (EFFR).  The Overnight Bank Funding Rate (OBFR), is also published by the NY Fed to capture the volume-weighted median of overnight federal funds transactions, Eurodollar transactions, and the domestic deposits reported by banks.

 

 

The next FOMC meetings (and they are all two-day meetings so these are the second day, when they actually announce) are: 6/10/20, 7/29/20, 9/16/20, 11/5/20, and 12/16/20. However, as we saw on 3/3/20, the FOMC can call emergency meetings at any time, even on weekends, especially during the Crisis we are facing now.

 

The Federal Reserve’s Reverse Repo Facility (RRP), which has over 300 approved participants (mostly banks, GSEs, and MMFs) is used as a tool by the Federal Reserve, along with its Fed Funds target-setting monetary policy, and IOER for depository institutions, to help control short-term interest rates. The Fed is currently only repoing out US Treasuries from its portfolio and typically only Overnight.

 

 

The Federal Reserve has begun buying ETFs and Corporate Bonds, as well as Municipal debt. Fed Chairman Powell explained the Fed’s new round of $2.2 trillion in lending programs, which will include Corporate Debt backstops for states, cities, and small businesses. This will include riskier bonds issued by corporations that had recently lost their investment-grade status. This brings me back to my earlier point about CMBS and mortgage loans needing a Fed backup program like TALF. For the Fed’s $500 billion municipal lending facility, the Fed has told US states, cities and counties that they must show written proof that they have applied for a municipal loan from a bank, BEFORE they will be considered for the lending facility. This positions the Fed facility more as a ‘last resort’ for applicants. The Fed has since broadened the eligibility for the MLF, lowering the population requirement to 250,000 from 1 million for cities and to 500,000 from 2 million for counties. Also, the Fed has expanded the duration of the debt it will purchase to 3 years from 2 years. More than 200 municipalities are already eligible to participate.

 

 

I didn’t add much to this section in this Repo Commentary, as I am working on a larger article about the Fed for another publication, due out shortly. I hate getting my peanut butter in my chocolate (except for food), so I’m going to refrain from commenting much on Fed policy here, so that the article will be fresh information and tantalizing dialogue, that you haven’t read already, as a savvy Repo Commentary reader.

 

 

 

Earthquakes and Volcanoes:

 

 

The Earth remains seismically active, as the atmosphere becomes active for hurricane season.

 

Earthquakes above 5.0-magnitude, in the last few days:

 

06/04 5.0 Kota Ternate, Indonesia

06/04 5.1 Port-Vila, Vanuatu

06/04 6.4 Tobelo, Indonesia

06/04 5.5 Searles Valley, CA

06/03 5.9 Fiji Islands

06/03 5.2 Ierapetra, Greece

06/03 6.8 San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

06/02 5.1 Isangel, Vanuatu

06/02 5.0 Grytviken, South Georgia

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weather:

 

 

West Palm Beach, FL has, on average, 136 days of rain per year, which amounts to about 62.3 inches of rain. In June, the average high temp in West Palm Beach is 88 degrees and the average rainfall is 8.30”. in the last 5 months, we have received 17.10” of rain already. Typically, June has 15.3 days of rain, whereas May has 9.7 days of rain, in West Palm Beach, however, it has actually been raining here for 14 of the last 17 days and is expected to rain for the next 7 days.  Yesterday, Palm Beach County received one month of rain. So, you’ll understand some of the picture gallery above. They are forecasting massive rains in Central America.

 

 

On 5/20, two aging, crumbling dams in Edenville, MI and Sanford, MI flooded and gave way, endangering thousands of residents downstream in Midland. The people were evacuated. Federal regulators had actually seen this coming, as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has long-warned the owners of the dams to increase capacity of the Edenville dam’s spillways to prevent a flood, going back as far as 1999. The agency issued another warning in 2004, when the ownership changed hands, and another in 2017, when it declared the dam to be a “high hazard”. In 2018, the FERC revoked Boyce Hydro’s license, leading to years of litigation. Part of the stall was that Boyce Hydro was planning to sell the system (including the dam) to a regional authority in 2022 for $9.4 million, and the cost of improving the dams was expected to be $100 million. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality found that 82 of its 88 dams it oversees were approaching or past 50-years-old, the average engineered lifespan for a dam. The American Society of Civil Engineers released a report in 2009, stating that more than 90% of Michigan’s nearly 2,600 dams will reach or exceed their design life by 2020.

 

 

The Atlantic Hurricane Season began June 1stand ends November 30th. According to Accuweather, the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to have a more-active-than-normal season. They expect about 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 4 of them major hurricanes. The 2019 season had 18 named storms, matching 1969 for the 4thmost-lively season in the past 150 years. For the 2019 storm season, CSU, which has historically been the most used, had forecast a near-average season of 13 named storms, 5 hurricanes, and 2 major hurricanes.  It turned out to be the 4thyear in a row of above-average damaging seasons. We had 18 named storms, 7 hurricanes, of which 3 were major hurricanes.  It became the 7thyear that there were multiple Category-5 hurricanes in one season. CSU is predicting an above-average hurricane season in the Atlantic for 2020, with the likely absence of El Nino. Tropical and subtropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures are currently higher than normal, which tends to promote active hurricane seasons. Consequently, CSU predicts 16 named storms in the Atlantic, with 8 to become Hurricanes, and 4 to reach Category 3 or above strength.Okay, this week the third named Tropical Storm, Cristobal, formed in the Gulf of Mexico off the Yucatan Peninsula, and is now bearing down on Louisiana on Monday.  The season is already active.

 

 

 

The Pacific Hurricane Season started 5/1/20 and ends 11/1/20. There is yet to be a forecast for this Hurricane Season. CSU says, for the Pacific Hurricane Season, they have warm ENSO conditions, with waters slightly warmer than normal in the eastern and central tropical Pacific, but will likely cool and dissipate El Nino. There are no tropical cyclones expected in the Central Pacific or Eastern Pacific in the next 5 days. India’s financial capital of Mumbai narrowly escaped Cyclone Nisarga, as nearby areas bore the full brunt.

 

 

 

 

 

Sports News:      

 

 

 

MLB:

 

 

The 2019 MLB regular season began on 3/28 last year and ended on 9/30 (more than 6 months).  The Washington Nationals beat The Houston Astros in 7 games in The World Series. As these 2 teams played each other in March 2020, in the Spring Training facility that they share and that I sing the National Anthem at, the Spring Training season (and eventually MLB season) ended about 3/15, with the pandemic shutdown. MLB shut down both the Cactus League and Grapefruit League Spring Training about halfway through. Then, MLB cancelled the Minor League seasons for all 3 levels of the Minors. Then, MLB cancelled its Baseball Hall of Fame 2020 Induction Ceremony for 7/26. Instead, the plan is to honor the inductees (including Derek Jeter) in July 2021, along with its class of 2021 inductees.

 

 

On 4/29, USA Today reported that MLB was discussing a plan to start the regular season in late June, no later than 7/2, playing at home stadiums, but with realigned league. Three executives said that they plan to play at least 100 regular season games. But, there would be no fans in their stadiums, and it would likely be a 3-division, 10-team plan, in which teams play only within their division. This would abolish the traditional American and National Leagues, and realign teams based on geography, which was the original intent. The players seem to like the idea, as they could still play in their home ballparks and not have to travel as much. The players were opposed to playing the entire season in Arizona/Florida/Texas. The new MLB protocols will include no spitting, high-fiving, or team showers. This is what USA Today was thinking was likely:

 

EAST

NY Yankees, NY Mets, Boston Red Sox, Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays, and Miami Marlins

 

WEST

Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, San Francisco Giants, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Texas Rangers, Houston Astros, Seattle Mariners

 

CENTRAL

Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Minnesota Twins, Atlanta Braves, Detroit Tigers

 

MLB is considering how the 30 teams could refund COVID-19 postponements. As for not having fans in the seats, MLB and union officials are discussing the ramifications of not having fans, ticket sales, and concession revenue. Last season, MLB attendance was 68.5 million and the average ticket price was $53. Several teams want significant pay cuts for players, to play a shortened season. There is division about how the revenue-sharing should be split, from the lucrative TV contracts. MLB’s revenue was $10.7 billion in 2019, mostly due to its TV deal. Since I wrote in the last Repo Commentary, the two sides are further apart now, in restarting the MLB season. In fact, the disagreement about revenue-sharing and cutting players’ contracts back, has become more heated and is endangering this team sport from even having a season in 2020.

 

 

The Korean Baseball Organization season start was postponed in March, due to COVID-19, but by the end of the month, teams were playing with masks on, but no spectators. The league finally began its season on 5/5. I have actually seen parts of 2 games, which is 2 games more than I have ever watched before.

 

 

Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball Organization (NPB) postponed its baseball season, which was due to start on 3/20, and now is looking to start in June.

 

 

The NCAA College World Series was cancelled.  Vanderbilt Commodores were the champs from 2019. The NCAA Women’s College World Series (softball) was also cancelled.

 

 

The COVID-19 pandemic also picked off the fan-favorite Little League World Series on 4/29, when it was cancelled for the first time in its history. It is typically held in August in South Williamsport, PA.

 

 

Golf:

 

 

The PGA Tour 2020 season was in ‘full-swing’ and they had the Players Championship at Ponte Vedra, FL (TPC Sawgrass and the island green). But, then it cancelled the tournament before Friday’s Round 2 and shut down for the pandemic. At that time, it also announced that it was postponing the Masters in Augusta.  Augusta National Golf Club announced that the postponement of the Masters would be to November 9-15. On Friday, the PGA announced that the Tour would resume its 2020 season with tournaments on 6/11. On Monday, the USGA announced that the local and sectional qualifying for the US Open have been cancelled. I think that was wise, since there were to be some 120 events around the country and 3 sectionals outside the country to be staged. However, those 36-hole events, with club pros, amateurs, mini-tour players, and nonexempt Tour pros competing were how half of the US Open field made their way into the tournament, and it was the allure of this particular Major and what made it an “Open”. I’m sure many of you remember the movie which portrays an amateur beating the great Ben Hogan in the US Open. Instead, the tournament will be an all-exempt field, whatever that means. The US Open has been postponed until 9/17 Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, NY. The PGA Championship is still scheduled for August. The USGA, at the same time, also announced that 4 of its other championships were being cancelled: the Mid-Amateur, the Women’s Mid-Amateur, the Senior Amateur, and the Senior Women’s Amateur. That will leave the USGA with just (besides the US Open): the US Women’s Open (12/10-12/13) at Champions Golf Club in Houston, US Amateur (8/10-8/16), and the US Women’s Amateur (8/3-8/9). The Ryder Cup is being postponed until the Fall. Muirfield Village will host back-to-back PGA Tour events.

 

 

Last week’s charity golf tournament on Sunday between Matt Wolfe/Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy (current World No.1)/Dustin Johnson, at ultra-private Seminole Golf Club, home course of Ben Hogan (and now member, Tom Brady), which was won by McIlroy/DJ on a tiebreaker 19thhole, raised $4 million for COVID-19 relief and drew 2.35 million sports-starved TV viewers. As entertaining as that tourney was, another live tourney was held this past weekend in nearby Hobe Sound, at Tiger Wood’s own newly constructed ultra-private golf course.  This charity tournament raised $20 million for COVID-19 relief and was a very entertaining match-play event between Tiger Woods/Peyton Manning and Phil Mickelson/Tom Brady. It was billed as the rematch of last year’s $10 million duel between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, won by Mickelson in a boring 4-hour event, in which the microphoned players rarely talked.  This time around, with the addition of the 2 colorful legendary QBs, plus many Tweets, bets, and challenges from commentators and other professional athletes, the tournament was a blast to watch. In the end, Tiger and Peyton held off a late charge by Mickelson and Brady. All players were microphoned and provided a lot of banter and golf instruction.

 

The European Tour’s Hero Indian Open, was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns, as have all other scheduled tournaments.

 

Cheyenne Knight is returning to the site of her first LPGA victory for today’s start of the Texas Women’s Open. She actually had to book a tee time for her practice round on Monday.

 

 

 

NFL:

 

 

The 100thNFL season ended last year, in Miami, in an entertaining 31-20 comeback Super Bowl victory for the Kansas City Chiefs over the San Francisco 49ers. The 2020 NFL Draft, which was scheduled for 4/23-4/25 in Las Vegas, was cancelled and held remotely. An Indianapolis infectious disease doctor has voiced significant doubts about having an NFL season this year. However, NBC News quotes direct sources who say that ongoing pandemic has created only an “extremely small” chance that there will be no NFL season in 2020. According to NFL personnel, the biggest impediment to playing football would be the availability of adequate testing, both for players/staff and the general public. But, it is expected that testing will be prevalent by August and expected to be simple, with a quick turnaround time. This is one of the few team sports that believes it will open up the season with fans IN the seats. The NFL is also the one team sport that puts a lot more weight on the unfair advantages and disadvantages of fans in home stadiums. So, not having fans would have a much greater impact on NFL outcomes, as opposed to NHL, NBA, or MLB. I don’t know if I agree with that. I think that is true for NCAA team sports though. The NFL also recognizes that ‘social distancing’ will be impossible for fans in a stadium. All of this does not mean that training camps will necessarily open in late July/early August and that the regular season will start precisely on Thursday night, 9/10. QB Cam Newton has still not been signed by anyone.

 

 

The Canadian Football League’s season was postponed from 6/11 to an unspecified date in July. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are the CFL’s defending Grey Cup champions.

 

 

The new Vince McMahon-backed XFL, on 3/8, suspended and then cancelled its inaugural season. By mid-April, the league filed for bankruptcy, and currently has no plans to field teams in 2021.

 

 

Tennis

 

 

The Tennis Tours (ATP, FFT, WTA) are discussing when and how to reopen their seasons. We know that the French Open will has been postponed to 9/24-10/4. We know that the 134thWimbledon, scheduled for 6/29-7/12 has been cancelled for 2020. The US Open is still expected to be played at its normal time in September. There is still a strong possibility that initially there will NOT be fans in the tennis stadiums.

 

 

 

Olympics

 

 

The Summer Olympics, which were to start in July 2020, will be postponed until July 2021. This is the first time ever that a Summer Olympics was held on an odd year. The start of WWII in 1939, forced the 1940 Summer Olympics to be delayed a few weeks, and then canceled. The 1944 Olympic Games were also not held.  The Summer Olympics did not begin again until London in 1948. But, they were never postponed.

 

 

The 2020 X-Games, that were to be held in Minneapolis in July, were cancelled on 4/24 due to COVID-19 (although now they could have been cancelled for another reason).

 

 

The Scripps National Spelling Bee, which had been scheduled for Memorial Day weekend, was cancelled for the first time since 1945.

 

Poker

 

 

The World Series of Poker didn’t fold, but the 2020 tournament, scheduled to begin 5/26 in Las Vegas, was pushed back to an unspecified date in the Fall. Although the tournament of thousands of players begins rounds typically in May, the final table doesn’t normally play until November. So, the gap between the preliminaries and the finals will be much less time in 2020.

 

 

Fighting

 

MMA and UFC are back on. Unlike most pro sports that shut down, UFC kept fighting on until 3/14, when they finally suspended because of COVID-19. However, they restarted on 5/9 with UFC 249, and have been fighting fanless fights since. CBS had reported that Mike Tyson (53) and Evander Holyfield (57) were working out the details of Tyson vs Holyfield III! They are both in tremendous shape and want to stage a 4-round charity exhibition fight (kind of like the end of Rocky III). Holyfield won the first fight between the two in November 1996. In the rematch, in June 1997, Tyson was disqualified after biting both of Holyfield’s ears in the fight, taking a big chunk out of one of them. Both of them have been separately talking about returning to the ring for short charity exhibition bouts, but now are intrigued about fighting each other again. Tyson had said that he would only return to fight against a “real boxer”, after turning down $3 million to fight New Zealand rugby star Sonny Bill Williams. Holyfield absolutely wants to fight Tyson, calling the potential fight a “win-win-win”, although he is even more interested in fighting Riddick Bowe, another old rival. I don’t know what the 3 “wins” are either. With both Tyson and Holyfield in their 50s, it may be unsafe for either of them to be on the receiving end of punches. Neither of them ended their careers well, with Holyfield hanging on to try to get one last heavyweight championship and failing, while Tyson finished with losses to Danny Williams and Kevin McBride. I think it’s risky for them to do, although it would be a huge audience draw and would likely have a lot of action. After all of that, it appears that Tyson changed his mind about only fighting a real boxer, and has now agreed to a fight with former UFC champ, Tito Ortiz, instead of Holyfield.

 

 

Soccer

 

 

All leagues are now discussing when to reopen and whether to have fans in the seats. Germany’s Bundesliga resumed soccer games 5/16, as Bayern Munich beat Werder Bremen 4-1. Irish Premier and AFC Champions League, and Ugandan Super League have yet to restart.  Costa Rican Primera Division Clausura has restarted. The games will be played in empty stadiums, which could influence the results, as the home team won’t have the advantage of its cheering fans. However, research shows that it has less effect on the players and a raucous crowd influences the referees more. The MLS season was suspended on 3/12.

 

 

 

NCAA Football:

 

LSU played Clemson for the College Football National Championship, and despite being down 17-7 in the 2ndquarter, came roaring back behind Heisman Trophy-winner QB Joe Burrow, and won 42-25. The NCAA announced that all Spring sports were cancelled, including NCAA Spring Football, and that all players in all sports would have another year of eligibility, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Big 12 commissioner has been vocally optimistic ab out having fans back in the college stadiums. Clemson star WR Justyn Ross has been ruled out for the 2020 season, as he prepared to undergo surgery for a congenital fusion.

 

 

Here is the post-bowls, final AP Top 25 Poll:

 

  1. LSU 13-0
  2. Clemson 14-1
  3. Ohio State 13-1
  4. Georgia 12-2
  5. Oregon 12-2
  6. Florida 11-2
  7. Oklahoma 12-2
  8. Alabama 11-2
  9. Penn State 11-2
  10. Minnesota 11-2
  11. Wisconsin 10-4
  12. Notre Dame 11-2
  13. Baylor 11-3
  14. Auburn 9-4
  15. Iowa 10-3
  16. Utah 11-3
  17. Memphis 12-2
  18. Michigan 9-4
  19. Appalachian State 13-1
  20. Navy 11-2
  21. Cincinnati 11-3
  22. Air Force 11-2
  23. Boise State 12-2
  24. UCF 10-3
  25. Texas 8-5

 

 

NCAA Hockey

 

 

Near the halfway point of the college hockey season, analysts were seeing Cornell University (my alma mater) and North Dakota as legitimate national title contenders to be in the Frozen Four. Cornell is currently ranked No.1 in the nation. That all froze, when the NCAA cancelled the college hockey season due to the COVID-19.

 

 

 

NCAA Basketball

 

 

As teams entered their week of Conference Championship Tournaments, prior to the Committee’s decision on the 68 seeds for the National Championship (also known as March Madness), it all came to halt due to COVID-19.  One after another conference cancelled their tournaments and the NCAA cancelled the National Championship, before it ever started, on 3/12. The NCAA did the same with the Women’s Basketball Tournament.

 

 

I know this is a little weird, but Kentucky is No.1 on the early 2020-2021 Coach’s Poll basketball rankings. Gonzaga is No.2, followed by (in order) Baylor, Creighton, FSU, Villanova, Virginia, Duke, Iowa, and Texas Tech.

 

 

 

Here was the current AP Top 25 for the regular season:

 

  1. Kansas 28-3
  2. Gonzaga 29-2
  3. Dayton 29-2
  4. FSU 26-5
  5. Baylor 26-4
  6. San Diego State 30-2
  7. Creighton 24-7
  8. Kentucky 25-6
  9. Michigan State 22-9
  10. Duke 25-6
  11. Villanova 24-7
  12. Maryland 24-7
  13. Oregon 24-7
  14. Brigham Young 24-7
  15. Louisville 24-7
  16. Seton Hall 21-9
  17. Virginia 23-7
  18. Wisconsin 21-10
  19. Ohio State 21-10
  20. Auburn 25-6
  21. Illinois 21-10
  22. West Virginia 21-10
  23. Houston 23-8
  24. Butler 22-9
  25. Iowa 20-11

 

 

 

 

NHL:

 

Last season ended in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals on 6/12, when the St. Louis Blues beat my Bruins 4-3 in the Finals. The puck dropped on this current season on 10/2/19. Then it all ended about 70 of 82 games into the regular season. The NHL is providing updates to the public every Monday. Although the 31 NHL general managers said they intend to resume the regular season in July, on-ice action remains on the shelf. Commissioner Gary Bettman said that ending the season without awarding a champion is “not something I’m even contemplating.” I’m glad for that, being a Bruins fan and that the Bruins were in first place overall. Luc Robitaille, Kings’ president, told season-ticket holders last Thursday that it seems the NHL is “leaning toward” jumping right to the playoffs, rather than concluding the regular season. The working plan is a 24-team playoff field, which would include the ‘bubble’ teams (just on the bubble of the 8 teams of each conference), Blackhawks and Canadiens. It is clear that there has been pushback to restart the season from the teams that are far outside the playoff picture and having teams reconvene at centralized sites for about a dozen regular season games. The NHL and NHLPA have a jointly appointed Return to Play Committee that was working over the weekend. Here are the issues that ESPN reports the Committee is working on:

  • How long they need for training camps?
  • What would be the playoff format?
  • How quarantine and testing procedures would work (for example, since Russia has seen a recent spike in cases, forced to self-isolate and for how long)?
  • What happens if someone tests positive?
  • How to accommodate the players’ wishes to bring their families to hub cities?
  • What to do about fans or fan noise?

 

On 5/28, in a very unusual move, the NHL concluded the 2019-2020 regular season and awarded my Boston Bruins with the Presidents’ Trophy (for having the best record), which is typically a curse for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for that team. The Bruins also received the William M. Jennings Trophy (both Bruins’ goalies Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak, for best goals-against avg.) and Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy (David Pastrnak for most goals, 48, tied with Alex Ovechkin).

 

 

NBA:

 

 

This year, the NBA season did not start until 10/22/19, 18 days later than last year. We were nearing the playoffs, when the pandemic shut the regular season down, with just a little over a month left. Basketball fans, unlike many of the other team sports’ fans, have had something new and interesting to watch, in the Michael Jordan documentary The Last Dance.Unlike some of the other professional team sports, the NBA and the NBA players’ union had agreed, in a poll, to restart the season, and have at least some regular season and then the playoffs. However, after much chatter, since LeBron took his last shot on 3/11, there have been no concrete plans to reopen. A one- or two-site setup for teams is among the most likely scenarios, such as Orlando and Las Vegas, per ESPN. The Union and the NBA did agree on a deal that would begin with bimonthly paychecks to withhold 25% of player salaries in the event that games are formally canceled under the league’s Force Majeure provision in the CBA. That withholding began with the last paychecks. Late 6/4, the NBA reportedly approved a 22-team format to restart the season in the Summer. All games would reportedly be played at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fl. Some coup for ESPN/Disney! The vote was 29-1, with the Blazers the only team against the format. The top 8 teams in each conference, plus the Blazers, Pelicans, Suns, Kings, Spurs, and Wizards (the bubble teams). The training camp would start 6/30, and all teams would fly to Orlando on 7/7. The tip-off would be 7/31, and a game 7 of this modified playoff format would be on 10/12. Each team would play 8 games before the playoffs would start. Gone, will be the home court advantage.

 

 

The WNBA season was postponed from mid-May start, although the 2020 WNBA Draft went on as scheduled 4/17.

 

 

The Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) season was suspended on 2/1. The latest word is that the CBA would restart its season in July.

 

 

 

Marathons

 

 

On 5/28, the 124thBoston Marathon announced that the 2020 race, postponed from April (Patriot’s Day) to 9/14, has now been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and will be held virtually. The virtual part is to reward people who run the marathon with participant t-shirts and medals like the ones that are normally given out. Runners, at this time, will NOT be automatically entered into 2021’s race, because they don’t yet know what that race will look like. The Boston Marathon typically brings in more than $200 million to Boston’s economy and raises another $36 million for charities, each year. About 30,000 people usually run the Boston Marathon each year and there are about a million spectators along the 26.2-mile route.

 

 

Cycling

 

 

The Tour de France was scheduled to begin 6/27, but that date was pushed back until 8/29-9/20. Then, the French government said that no sports events may be held until September, so they will likely have to tweak the start date or cancel the race.

 

 

Horse Racing:

 

 

For the first time since WWII, the Kentucky Derby was postponed. It will be run on 9/5/20, Labor Day weekend.  Horse racing is expected to begin soon, but will likely be without in-person fans. Churchill Downs ran a virtual showdown of the 13 Triple Crown winners running the Kentucky Derby. Seattle Slew was leading from the wire, but Secretariat and Citation overtook Seattle Slew, and Secretariat won. It was very cool to watch! The production raised funds for COVID-19 relief charity. Other horseraces have been held in the past month, but without spectators, like the Florida Derby and Arkansas Derby.

 

 

Racing:

 

 

NASCARbegan the 2020 season with 4 races at Daytona, followed by 3 scheduled races, the last on 3/8/20. But, then the pandemic shut everything down, wiping out the next 7 scheduled races.  The season finally restarted this past Sunday, at Darlington Raceway on 5/17. The race was run without fans in the stands. NASCAR is making every effort to get as many of the originally schedule races in to the abbreviated season that had been postponed. Some races will be cancelled.

 

 

In the NASCAR Cup Series of 2019, Kyle Busch won in the last race at Homestead.  In 2018, the winner was Joey Logano, who beat Martin Truex Jr. in the final 15 laps of the final race at Homestead.  Truex Jr. won the crown in 2017.  The 2020 regular season will begin in February with the Daytona 500. Here is the complete (updated) schedule of races for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup in 2020 and the results (you will notice that, after 3/8/20, some races have been postponed, some have been cancelled, and some have been replaced by other races):

 

2/16 Daytona 500 (postponed by rain to 2/17)-winner Erik Jones

2/23 Las Vegas, Jiffy Lube Pennzoil 400-winner Joey Logano

3/1 Auto Club 400-winner Alex Bowman

3/8 Phoenix, FanShield 500-Joey Logano

3/15 Atlanta, Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500-POSTPONED

3/22 Homestead, Dixie Vodka 400-POSTPONED

3/29 Texas, O’Reilly Auto Parts 500-POSTPONED

4/5 Bristol, Food City 500-CANCELLED

4/19 Richmond, Toyota Owners 400-POSTPONED

4/26 Talladega, GEICO 500-POSTPONED

5/3 Dover, NASCAR Cup Race at Dover-POSTPONED

5/9 Martinsville, NASCAR Cup Race at Martinsville-POSTPONED

5/16 Charlotte, NASCAR All Star Open-CANCELLED

5/17 Darlington, Darlington 400-winner Kevin Harvick

5/24 Charlotte, Coca-Cola 600 as originally scheduled

5/31 Kansas, Kansas 400-replaced by NASCAR CUP SERIES at Bristol which was scheduled for 4/5

6/7 Michigan, FireKeepers Casino 400-replaced by Atlanta, which was scheduled for 3/15

6/10 Martinsville, NASCAR Cup Race at Martinsville, which was scheduled for 5/9

6/14 Sonoma, Toyota/Save Mart 350-replaced by Homestead, Miami, which was scheduled for 3/22

6/21 Chicagoland, Chicagoland 400-replaced by Talladega, which was scheduled for 4/26

6/28 Pocono, Worry-Free Weather Guarantee 350-as scheduled

7/5 Indianapolis, Big Machine Vodka 400-as scheduled

7/11 Kentucky, Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart-as scheduled

7/19 New Hampshire, Foxwoods Resort Casino 301-as scheduled

8/9 Michigan, Consumers Energy 400-as scheduled

8/16 Watkins Glen, Go Bowling at The Glen-as scheduled

8/23 Dover, Drydene 400-as scheduled

8/29 Daytona, Coke Zero Sugar 400-as scheduled

PLAYOFFS:

9/6 Darlington, Southern 500

9/12 Richmond, Federated Auto Parts 400

9/19 Bristol, Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race

9/27 Las Vegas, South Point 400

10/4 Talladega, Alabama 500

10/11 Charlotte, Bank of America ROVAL 400

10/18 Kansas, Hollywood Casino 400

10/25 Texas, Texas 500

11/1 Martinsville, NASCAR Cup Fall Race

11/8 Phoenix, NASCAR Cup Series Championship

 

 

 

 

Formula Onebegan with F1 Car Launch Dates for the various teams from 2/12 through 2/15 for Renault, Racing Point, McLaren, and Ferrari. That was followed by the Pre-Season Testing schedule.  The opening of the season coincided with the COVID-19 lockdown and FIA announced that the season would be delayed at least until the 5/3 Dutch Grand Prix.  It announced a number of race postponements. F1 is considering having an abbreviated 19 race season, when it begins. The reports are that they are thinking about 7/5 as a start date.  It was set to have a record 22-race season, when pre-season testing ended and the Australia Grand Prix was about to run. Fortunately, I never posted the original 2020 schedule, so I don’t have to update it. F1 is currently working with its promoters on a revised 2020 calendar with the actual sequence and schedule dates for races expected to differ significantly from the original 2020 calendar. There will likely be no summer break and they anticipate that the season end date will extend beyond the original end date of 11/27-29.

 

 

 

Here is the IndyCar Racingcircuit (Indy cars are generally considered faster than F1 car along straight lines, mostly because their races are on oval tracks, while F1 tracks are more intricate, requiring better brakes and more aerodynamic grip than Indy cars).  In 2019, Josef Newgarden came in 8thin the last race, to just edge out Simon Pagenaud for the championship.  COVID-19 pandemic was going to allow only one IndyCar race to run so far this season, St. Petersburg, and it would be without spectators. However, just before the race, IndyCar announced that the rest of the season would be postponed at least until June 14, and several races would be cancelled, including this one. It then announced that all races through April would be cancelled. They have announced some postponements of later races, which I will update as I receive them:

 

3/15 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg-POSTPONED to 10/25

3/22 Circuit of the Americas-CANCELLED

4/5 Grand Prix of Alabama-Takuma Sato-CANCELLED

4/19 Grand Prix at Long Beach-CANCELLED

4/26 AutoNation IndyCar Challenge at Austin, TX-CANCELLED

5/9 GMR Grand Prix of Indianapolis-postponed to 7/4

5/24 104thIndianapolis 500-postponed to 8/23

5/30 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 1-CANCELLED

5/31 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 2-CANCELLED

6/6 Genesys 600 at Texas Grand Prix-This race is expected to be run without spectators in a shortened 300 miles

6/21 Rev Group Grand Prix at Road America-

6/27 Indy Richmond 300-

7/12 Honda Indy Toronto-POSTPONED

7/18 Iowa 300-moved to double-header with Monterey Grand Prix

8/16 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio-

8/22 Bommarito Automotive Group 500-

9/6 Grand Prix of Portland-

9/20 Firestone Grand Prix at Monterey-moved to double-header with Iowa 300

10/3 IndyCar Harvest GP at Indianapolis-ADDED

10/25 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg-ADDED as final race

 

 

 

 

Travel News:

 

 

I assure you that I am not involved, but Disney World announced that it will be reopening on my birthday, 7/11. Sea World is reopening 6/11. Sea World will have a new attraction soon, the Ice Breaker, which is its first launch roller coaster, which features 4 airtime-filled launches, both backwards and forwards, culminating in a reverse launch into the steepest beyond vertical drop in Florida—93 feet with a 100-degree angle. I’m no longer familiar with roller coaster terms, like ‘airtime launches’ and ‘beyond vertical’, but it sounds extremely scary, if you are beyond 90-degrees in a plummet! Moving on to Universal Parks, there are 4 Universal them parks worldwide. Three of the parks are called Universal Studios and are located in Florida, California, and Japan. The theme park in Florida will re-open the Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay on 6/5. Universal City Walk, where they have the restaurants, Hard Rock, bars, and nightclubs, is already open, but for limited operations. South Carolina’s theme parks and attractions were allowed to reopen Memorial Day weekend. This included zoos, museums, aquariums, planetariums, historic buildings and sites, waterparks, amusement park rides, Go-Kart tracks, Bingo facilities, and Miniature golf facilities. As you noticed, it still doesn’t include bowling alleys, nightclubs, spectator sports, and movie theaters. Back to roller coasters, North Carolina has just officially opened the state’s first “alpine coaster”, a mind-blowing mountain-side roller coaster ride. The new “Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster” features 2-person carts that wind through the trees, over rocks, and around 360-degree loops on over 2,160 feet of track at speeds up to 27 mph. It is slightly longer than the legendary Canyon Flyer Coaster, America’s first of 34 alpine coasters, which opened in 2014.

 

 

Although NYC is preparing to reopen on 6/8, the MTA has not shared its plans for the NYC Subway. Always considered a hot-bed of germ activity, no doubt COVID-19 presents some challenges for the MTA to sanitize and lure its 8 million daily riders back. I saw the huge UVB flashers on one of the national TV broadcasts, intended to kill the virus, now that officials have finally agreed that sunlight DOES kill the virus, something that was alleged about 3 months ago, and finally is accepted. But, zapping is intended to be done when the cars come out of service at night, not during operation with riders in and out all day. It’s unlikely that COVID-19 has a watch, and will avoid those daytime hours with riders. Alternatively, NYC Transit workers have been using a chemical called Goldshield 75 to clean the subway cars. The problem with that is that the EPA has not approved that cleaner. Also, 4 years ago, the company that makes Goldshield was forced to settle a complaint filed by the EPA alleging that it made false statements about the effectiveness of the spray. One change that NY Transit did reveal is that every subway rider must wear a mask. However, it did not say who would enforce that rule, how, and whether MTA would distribute masks to riders or force them to buy their own. The Governor of NY has admitted a number of times that social distancing will be impossible on the subways. City and transit officials are fine with expecting/wanting returning NYC workers (some 300,000-400,000 of them in Phase I) to avoid the subway. When the NYSE reopened last week, it directed its employees to avoid subways and buses, and drive their own cars or take taxis, even offering 30% discounts at one parking garage.

 

Pittsburgh’s iconic funicular, Monongahela Incline, is turning 150-years-old. Its younger sibling, the Duquesne Incline, is probably the one seen most often in Pittsburgh skyline images. These are the only 2 inclines remaining in Pittsburgh, which once sported nearly two dozen inclines.

 

This was a sad story for me, as I adore San Francisco (not that I don’t adore a lot of places, like Boston, Chicago, New Orleans, Savannah, Cleveland, etc.). A fire destroyed the warehouse on Pier 45 of San Francisco’s famous Fisherman’s Wharf, a week ago. It almost engulfed a historic WWII-era ship, SS Jeremiah O’Brien,in the process. 130 firefighters had to battle the flames and one was injured.

 

Italy has now opened up travel to its citizens again.

 

 

 

 

Health News: 

 

 

As of this evening (6/4), globally, more than 389,644 people have died from COVID-19. More than 6.6 million people have been infected with COVID-19. On the positive side, more than 2,853,358 people have totally recovered, after getting COVID-19. The US has the most confirmed cases and most deaths, as well as most recovered from the virus. No.2 in number of confirmed cases is now Brazil, and those numbers are growing. No.3 is now Russia, followed by the UK, and then Spain, and then Italy. As for deaths from the virus, No.2 is the UK with 39,987, No.3 is Italy with 33,689, No.4 is Brazil now with 32,548, and No.5 is France with 29,068.  According to Italian authorities, 96% of the COVID-19 fatalities there were suffering from other illnesses before the virus. 1.1% of the victims were under 50-years-old there, and the average age of those who died was 80-years-old.

 

 

 

The death toll from COVID-19 in the US, as of 6/04, now exceeds 108,208. Over 26% of those deaths were elderly people. New York is by far the worst-hit state by COVID-19. As of 6/04, there have been 30,174 deaths in the state, while 66,756 people have recovered from the virus. COVID-19 now has two strains: L strain and S strain. The CDC has determined that the early estimate of a 3% mortality rate was grossly inaccurate and that the mortality rate is now close 0.30%.

 

 

The US and Europe are now dealing with a rare, COVID-19-related Inflammatory Disease affecting children. The disease is referred to as PMIS and has been reported in parts of the US and Europe and reportedly some children have experienced organ failure. At least 3 deaths have been reported in NY.

 

Authors of a major study on the drug hydroxychloroquine have asked the scientific journal “The Lancet” to retract their study, saying they are no longer confident in its findings. The study was published on 5/22 and raised questions about treating severely ill patients with the drug typically used against autoimmune diseases and malaria. The study, which found no benefit from the drug, but potentially serious cardiac side effects, led other researchers, including the WHO, to halt studies of the drug for treatment of COVID-19.

 

 

LabCorp’s COVID-19 IgG Antibody Test is now available. If you have been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19, your body will typically produce immunoglobulin G antibodies as part of the immune response to the virus, and this serology testing checks for that antibody. The test does not show if you have been exposed to COVID-19, because it can take 2-4 weeks after exposure to develop antibodies. So, this test is for individuals who think they may have had COVID-19 and do not currently have symptoms. It does not tell you if you have an active infection. There is a new contact tracing app that could become the model to save the world from the spread of COVID-19. I mentioned this test in the last Repo Commentary, and since then, scientists have found it to be only about 50% accurate.

 

Some fire departments are warning about leaving hand